Beliefnet
Virtual Talmud

Even with all Israel’s political handicaps, its economy has performed remarkably well. Much credit should be given to Bibi Netanyahu for creating a strong business class and attracting foreign investors like Warren Buffet. So it might come as a surprise to many in America that Israel has a poverty problem.
As it has been reported, “At present, just 30 percent of Haredi [a theologically conservative form of Orthodox Judaism] men participate in the work force. Almost half the Haredi population lives below the official poverty line. As the Haredi share of the population grows, pressure will mount on the tax rolls, the welfare system and inter-communal tolerance and civility.”


It’s hard to feel bad for starving Israeli Haredim when they do everything in their power to continue a culture of indecent dependency. The issue here is so bizarre that any way you look at it you are left scratching your head in disbelief. As it now stands, aside from a few cut-off-your-nose-despite-your-face secularists, the main group advocating for Haredi poverty are the Haredim themselves. For years now Haredi leaders have been at the forefront of preventing the emendation of Israeli law to remove the obstacles in the way of granting employment to those who do not enlist in the army. Many in its leadership ranks would prefer poverty than the risks that come with the workplace.
Furthermore, so dead-set are Haredi leaders on ensuring that their followers go hungry that they are now placing all kinds of new restrictions on women to prevent them from participating in the work force. For years there was a quiet revolution happening in Haredi life–men would sit and learn while women would become the family breadwinners. Well its seems that the women starting knowing a bit too much, becoming a bit to independent, and having a bit too much of a say around the house. So, the Haredi leadership has now decided: no more women working.
Too many Haredi leaders would actually prefer that their followers remain poor and starving (ok to be honest they would actually prefer that the Jewish world pay them not to work). It’s hard to feel bad for the Haredim–or want to assist them–when they are so disinterested in helping themselves. I feel terrible about young children starving, but they don’t so why should we?

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