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Yeshiva students (archives) Photo: Yoav Friedman
Yeshiva students (archives) Photo: Yoav Friedman
 
 

Haredims' right not to study English

Op-ed: Obligating ultra-Orthodox to learn 'core subjects' meant to legitimize discrimination against them

Yehuda Shein
Published: 02.05.13, 11:28 / Israel Opinion

Once it was politically correct to disparage the Sephardics and discriminate against them under various pretexts, when the real reason of course was racism and hatred of the other's culture. Today this is no longer popular, but it is still okay to vilify haredim and discriminate against them.

 

People are allowed to make racist jokes, demonize and speak of "re-educating the primitive Jews." And these are not the communists who sought to destroy the Jewish culture; this is happening right here in Israel under the guise of "concern for the economy" and false "equality."

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Let's talk numbers. Some 700,000 haredim live in Israel. The vast majority of them work, apart from those who are discriminated against by employers because of their culture. In the public service sector, for example, discrimination against ultra-Orthodox is almost the official policy. Some 23,000 haredim study Jewish Sciences (yeshiva students). Most of them complete their studies after two or three years and then get a job that is related to their field of study. Of course there are those who choose a different profession after completing their studies – just like many humanities students at Israel's universities do. And there is a certain percentage of haredim who continue with their studies for a few more years– some out of ideology, the rest due to a shortage of jobs or because they are discriminated against by employers.

 

The higher learning institutes of Jewish culture, known as yeshivas, are mostly funded by private donors who live abroad. The State invests NIS 400-800 ($108-217) in each yeshiva student, but it invests five times as much in every humanities or Talmud student at the universities. Haredi lecturers and senior yeshiva administrators are paid NIS 5,000-6,000 ($1,358-1,630) a month – all from donations – while senior administrators at the universities earn some of the highest salaries in the country.

 

Political purposes

Moreover, the meager budget for Jewish culture is not officially recognized, so the religious and ultra-Orthodox practically have to beg to receive what others, including theaters, receive automatically.

 

Another example is free education. Only 50% of the haredim are eligible for free education; the rest pay out of their own pockets. Obligating haredi educational institutions that enjoy government funding to teach "core subjects" such as math, sciences, English, civics and others is just an excuse to justify the discrimination. Many haredi girls study all of the core subjects and are still discriminated against when it comes to employment and salaries. Many haredi men also study the core subjects.

 

In my estimation, only some 20% of haredim do not study the core subjects; they focus on Jewish studies in order to preserve a culture that many have tried to eradicate. Eventually they also complete the "core studies" when they learn a profession, but they do not allow others to intervene in their education. Today it is English, tomorrow it will be heresy studies. It is their right. In a democratic-liberal country, the majority does not have the right to impose its opinion on the minority and violate freedom of religion and conscience.

 

The call for "equal share of the burden" is also based on demagoguery. Three separate committees have determined that there is hidden unemployment in the IDF and that vast amounts of money are being wasted. The committees also determined that the army should be a professional one. So instead of exempting everyone from compulsory service, thus releasing tens of billions of shekels for education, health and welfare, the IDF is tasked with "educating the haredim" or teaching them a profession. This is unnecessary, populistic and is meant to serve goals of hatred and incitement for political purposes and to legitimize discrimination against haredim.

 

Yehuda Shein is the founder of the "Equality Now" movement, which works to bring the various sectors of Israeli society closer together, and is also the chairman of ultra-Orthodox animal rights group "Behemla"

 

 

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