Speaking at the Caesarea Economic Forum in Rishon Lezion, Gafni said, "I'm in favor of young haredim enlisting in the IDF. I am in favor of an 18-year-old student from Ponevezh Yeshiva halting his studies, taking a kit bag, traveling to the recruit center and joining a combat unit.
"But the people of Israel have always been divided between those who worked and fought and those who studied Torah. The Bible and the Mishna both talk about such a division. So if haredi students enlist in the IDF, an equal number of young people from north Tel Aviv, young seculars, should study Torah."
According to Gafni, the young seculars will have to study Torah all day and all night, "just like haredi students do." He wondered whether anyone would be willing to do such a thing.
Asked by Ynet whether it would be okay for the seculars to study Torah from a non-Orthodox angle, Gafni responded: "They can study from whichever angle they want, as long as it's from morning to night."
The Finance Committee chairman noted that Torah studies were essential, adding that "the Torah is the justification for our existence here. Otherwise, what are we doing here on Arab land? After all, the Hashomer Hatzair kibbutzim are also located on Arab land, not just the settlements in the territories.
"We are all occupiers. Our only right to be here is that God Almighty handed out countries, and gave us this small piece of land to safeguard the Torah."
'Haredim are better employees'
The conference, attended by Israel's economy leaders, was dedicated to the employment of haredim and Arabs. According to Gafni, the State must recognize haredi education as education for all intents and purposes, and force employers to hire people based on their Torah education.
"Haredi workers, the few people who do get hired, are usually better employees than regular workers due to the learning tools they receive at the yeshiva," he argued.
Surprisingly, Gafni was supported by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who said: "In principle, I agree with MK Gafni. I am in favor of professional training for haredim, and the government is acting on this.
"I am in favor of core studies, like English and mathematics, and in any case – haredi studies are studies for all intents and purposes and we must recognize that, because they train people to learn."
Former MK Chaim Oron (Meretz) and Steinitz's former advisor, Omer Moav, expressed their strong objection to the proposal.
According to Oron, "The core studies are the only way for all sectors, especially the haredi sector, to integrate into the labor market. If that doesn't happen – all figures show that the more the population which does not study the core subject grows, we'll deteriorate."
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