'Changes must seep in slowly. Margi
Photo: Effi Sharir
Minister of Religious Services Yacov Margi (Shas) is calling on the secular public to boost its birthrate in order to battle the demographic threat Israel is facing.
In a forum titled "Haredim in Israeli society" held last week as part of the Israel-Sderot Conference on Social Issues, Margi said, "Bring more kids to the world instead of complaining about the haredim. I, as a haredi man, fear for the fate of Israel."
The minister added that within a few years he believes most people in the IDF and the education system will be wearing skullcaps.
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Margi commented on the integration of haredim into the job market, and noted that the 2003 cutbacks in funds for the haredi sector, coupled with the world economic crisis of 2008 increased the rate of working yeshiva students because "nobody wants to be economically dependent on someone else."
The Shas minister lauded this phenomenon, saying "there is an increased openness in the haredi sector, although it may not be publicized. The changes must seep in slowly, and not be forced."
In reference to the relationship between the haredi sector and Israeli society, Margi noted that "we are now in the process of compromising and bridging; however, if we don’t recognize the needs of both sectors, we won't get anywhere, and only continue to gnaw at each other from the inside."
Margi took the opportunity to criticize the secular education system, saying that its flaws led many parents to send their kids to religious and haredi schools.
"Those who think haredim study in yeshivot only to evade military service are completely wrong. The reason for the high demand for religious education is because the public education system lacks Jewish values," he said.
Shahar Ilan, vice president of Hiddush organization for Religious Freedom and Equality said that "Shas' greatest sin is that it sends its youth to small yeshivot that do not offer general studies."
During the discussion, Ilan presented data indicating that the number of yeshiva students increased over the past two years from 65,000 to 75,000 haredi men, despite the millions of shekels the government spent in an effort to incorporate them into the job market.
"There is no better proof that there's a need to call off the income support and condition any such aid with employment," said Ilan.
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