If anyone was wondering how Israel managed to recover from the global financial crisis faster than other Western economies, Head of the Knesset's Finance Committee Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) has the answer – divine providence.
Speaking at an Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry conference on religious sector employment, Gafni said that contrary to past predictions, "the haredim, who 30 years ago were foretold as the market's ruination, have prospered, and with them Israel, which suffered last from the global recession and was the first to recover.
"I would say this is a case of divine providence."
Gafni said he was basing his conclusion on a biblical verse: "It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end" (Deuteronomy 11:12).
When asked by one of the reporters present if he was serious, Gafni answered "absolutely."
Still, for the most part, the head of the Knesset's Finance Committee was able to focus on the religious sector's performance in the workforce.
Addressing the law employment rate by men in the haredi sector, Gafni said that while it was imperative to allow yeshiva students to study the torah, "the majority of the haredi public wants to work – it is the State that makes it impossible."
Gafni said he feels haredim are discriminated against in the job market. "Not a day goes by that I don't get a call from a haredi man asking me to help him find a job. What can I do? When a haredi man applies to a high-tech company he is the last one to be hired.
"The late Yigal Guzman, who was president of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Israel, told me once that when it comes to jobs, the haredim are the last ones to be hired, only after Arabs, Russian's and Ethiopians.
"I can understand the employers, too. After the media paints haredim as flag-burning rioters who have to take maternity leaves all the time, why would they hire them?"
The haredim, he concluded, "Are not parasites. We want to work and contribute to the gross national product, but 80% of those looking for work can't find it."