Sunday, August 12, 2012

Socialism and the Haredi Question

Over the last few years, we have witnessed signs of the growing radicalization of Israel's Ultra-Orthodox  Haredim.Last year, the police was called in to the city of Beit Shemesh to protect modern orthodox Jewish children from the ire of ultra orthrodox Haredim, who would spit and swear at them for their allege immodesty.  Women have been harassed for refusing to move to the back of gender segregated buses. And rather than be content with personal religious observations, certain religious parties have pushed to impose religious law on Israel's secular majority. Considering the unwillingness of so many Ultra-Orthodox individuals to serve in the military, this is all the more galling to Israel's secular ad Modern-Orthodox populations.On an economic level, the figures are even dire; according to a report from the Bank of Israel, nearly 60% of the Haredi population was unemployed. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the majority of Haredi schools fail to prepare their students for participation in modern economy; a study found that only 40% of their schools teach English and mathematics.Considering the rapid population growth of the Ultra-Orthoxox, the cost of their welfare use and low level of participation in the labor market will threaten Israel's long term economic and social welfare.

In contrast, he vast majority of Orthodox Jewish individuals in the United States and England maintain a religiously observant lifestyle, while still being economically productive members of society. And rather than display intolerance and aggressive zealotry towards secular Jews, organizations like Chabbad use friendly persuasion to encourage greater religious observance. The source of this stark difference is no mystery: Israel's excessive welfare state has allowed the Haredim to avoid positively integrating themselves into the economic and social life of the nation. When food, housing, health care and other needs are provided by the state, incentives to become productive members of society are diminished. Israel's excessive welfare state indirectly allows the Ultra-Orthodox to segregate themselves and maintain unsustainable social and economic patterns. When individuals and groups do not bear the cost and consequences of their pathological behaviors, they will surely proliferate. This also holds true for religious schools; we can be certain that if they were funded by the families of the students and by voluntary contributions from civil society, these schools would place a greater emphasis on the secular studies that are vital to leading a productive life. After all, how many charities would willingly fund schools that produced so many unemployable, alienated individuals?

If Israel is to continue its role as a modern, innovative democracy, these issues must be addressed. Those who believe that the Haredi question can be answered without diminishing the welfare state are mistaken. In the context of Israel's system of coalition governments, its rapidly expanding Ultra-Orthodox population ensures that the state will increasingly cater its social and economic policies to their whim. More than anything this is vital for the spiritual welfare of the Haredim, for nowhere in Jewish History have observant Jews been so disconnected from the dignity of labor and self sufficiency. We even find warnings against welfare dependency in great Jewish texts; the Shulchan Aruch states "A respected and impoverished scholar should have a trade, even a lowly trade, rather than being in need of his fellow man." Wise words for religious and secular Israelis alike.

No comments:

Post a Comment