"The Haredi Challenge"
The debate over changing the pattern of the relationship between the Haredi community and the rest of Israeli society is essentially one about three challenges: economic integration, equality in sharing the security burden, and cultural influence. There are reciprocal relationships among these challenges, sometimes complementary and sometimes conflicting. In order to determine which course should be taken, we must first determine which of the challenges it is more important and imperative to overcome, and which have lesser priority. And more: we need to identify what kind of social fabric is likely to emerge from such intervention. In other words, what should the Haredi community's relationship with other sectors of society to look like? Such a determination will enable decision makers to choose among four possible courses of action in dealing with the Haredi challenge, with each having advantages and disadvantages over the short term and the long term:
|Four Patterns of Intervention
Integration of the Haredim by coercion
Full rights, Full duties
|Removes the Haredi challenge from the agenda and allows the integration of a new, high-level population into the Israeli mainstream.
Difficult to implement and liable to lead to active resistance, segregation, radicalization, and ultimately an intensification of the Haredi challenge.
Liable to raise moral concerns.
Social segregation of the Haredim
No rights, no duties
Does not require coercing the Haredi community.
Is likely to raise the level of awareness among Haredim about the need for partnership relations with the rest of the population.
Full isolation of the Haredi sector could lead to radicalization.
A cut-off of state resources would lead to poverty and distress.
The state would lose the benefits brought by the addition of a human resource to the circle of productivity.
Haredi economic integration only
Full rights, no duties
Deals with the central challenge – the economic burden – without the need for bitter struggles.
The Haredim would accept change that does not impose the requirement of army service and that does not endanger their cultural separation.
No equal sharing of the security burden.
The Haredim continue to gain numerical and political power – in addition to economic autonomy – ahead of another possible struggle over rights and influence.
|Balanced integration by mutual consent
Partial rights, partial duties
Full economic integration and full duties and rights.
A sense of "unity" that is likely to radiate positively on the tone of the public discourse. Cross pollination as is often found when cultures merge.
Increases in the number of areas with a high potential for friction.
Difficult in overcoming mutual suspicions and in charting a path towards incremental integration.
Leaves the long-term Haredi challenge unresolved.
The question of the future of Haredi society and, even more, the question of the integration of Haredim into general Israeli society occupies Israel's political leadership and has been at the center of the political agenda for many months. A variety of circumstances – economic (the budgetary load), legal (the court nullification of the Tal Law), and social (the social protest) – have increased the likelihood that this issue will not soon be removed from the agenda and will require that political leaders decide the issues that are causing deep disagreement between various sectors of society – a disagreement that is also liable to lead to political and social crises that will be complicated to deal with.
In the following paper, which is partially based on previous Jewish People Policy Institute publications – foremost among these, a paper of recommendations prepared for the JAFI Task Force on the Haredim – we will present a number of central questions that lie at the heart of the dispute, and propose a number of guidelines for policy-making. We should point out at this early stage, that this paper is far less extensive than other work on the subject including, recently, by the commission headed by MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima). Moreover, this paper does not pretend to propose an additional course of action beyond those that have been laid on the table, formally or less formally, in recent years (including those known as the Plesner "Plan", the Yaalon Plan, the Lapid Plan, the Netanyahu-Kandel Plan, the Elazar Stern Plan, etc., and those proposed in detail by institutions and organizations such as the Neaman Institute and the Israeli Democracy Institute). What is unique about this paper, in fact, is not its length, but its brevity: it seeks to focus on the core questions that must be decided before a detailed action plan can be proposed. This reflects our sense that, in some cases, the political establishment has a tendency to lay out plans for action before the plan's goals have been sufficiently articulated.
How the Majority Defines the Problem
In light of the Haredim's demographic growth, the time is approaching when general Israeli society must decide on a new model for the relationship between the non-Haredi majority and the "strengthening minority" of Haredim. In order to determine why an updated model is necessary, it is worth first defining the nature of the challenge posed by the current model. Haredi society contributes much to the cultural-social climate of Israel through those who study Torah, and is conspicuous in its acts of giving and charity on behalf of weaker individuals and groups. It appears that there is an interest among the Haredim in continued political integration and involvement in public affairs, and to a certain degree, also in partial economic integration – though all this while avoiding cultural and social integration into general Israeli society.Under these circumstances, the Haredim essentially pose a challenge to the rest of society that is essentially three separate challenges, the reciprocal relations between which are often misleading: the first is economic in nature; the second is civil, and the third cultural.
How the Haredi Minority Defines the Problem
From the Haredi point of view, the tension between general society and the Haredi world does not seem unbridgeable. As the Haredim see it, the essence of the general society's criticism is not about Haredi society's values, but rather about the low contribution made to the economy and the country's security and to its desire to impose certain patterns of behavior on the general public. At the same time, as the Haredim see it, the general public also needs to understand that the world of the yeshivot contributes to strengthening the identity, vitality, cultural richness and uniqueness of the renascent Jewish state. It has turned modern Israel into a Torah learning power.
Even so, the demands made by the general society shake the foundations of the Haredi world in three main ways:
The Difficulty in Finding a Comprehensive Solution
While the political discourse has a tendency to bundle all the above problems together in a single package – and indeed, they do sometimes have reciprocal relationships – an orderly and cold analysis shows that solving one of the problems is liable to sabotage the solving of one of the others, and vice versa. In other words, a solution requires not only finding the right formula for dealing with each of these challenges but also for setting priorities: what is it more important to solve, and what can be put off or even left alone?
Following are examples of how various solutions to the Haredi challenge "interfere" with one another and complicate the presentation of a comprehensive solution.
- The demand for drafting the Haredim and for equal burden-sharing will unite the Haredi community in active resistance – perhaps even including breaking the law – that will undermine efforts to bring about their voluntary integration into the workforce. The military draft is without doubt the most difficult issue for the Haredi community, and insistence on full, or even partial, draft equality (which would mean repealing the recognition that those who learn Torah are of equal – or even greater – importance to those in uniform) appears to be something the Haredim would refuse to accept. Of course, Israeli society could impose harsh penalties on the Haredi sector in the event that it refuses to accept new draft rules (forcibly drafting Haredim directly would be much more complicated that imposing punishments on those who refuse to be drafted). However, this would not necessarily achieve any objective other than a certain reduction in the economic cost of supporting the Haredi community. On the other hand, there are indications that the Haredi leadership is prepared to move cautiously and gradually towards occupational integration, a move that an immediate focus on the draft question would likely reverse. In other words, if the top priority is the productive integration of the Haredim into the workforce, it is possible that revoking the duty to enlist would make it much easier to achieve this goal than would requiring enlistment.
- The demand for equal burden-sharing, assuming it would result in the drafting of a significantly greater number of Haredim, would per force cause friction between the Haredi draftees and the army, and would accentuate the Haredim's demand for accommodation of their sectoral characteristics, as it would the challenge of Haredi coercion. It is important to recall that, even today, there are increasing numbers of cases in which a clash is evident between religious/halachic demands and the accepted standards in the military that results from the rise in the proportion of religious-Zionist soldiers in the army (the most prominent of the recent cases concerned refusing orders during evacuation of settlement outposts, women's singing, the phrasing of the soldiers' swearing in, and the involvement of military chaplains in preparing soldiers for battle). Adding tens of thousands of Haredim to the army would necessarily lead to a significant intensification of these clashes.
- The aim of reducing coercion by Haredim is not necessarily consistent with the other two demands. As we have mentioned, integrating Haredim into military service would add new points of conflict and coercion. But more than that: a Haredi community that enjoys not only numerical growth but also economic independence would probably only increase its demands and be less willing to compromise with the rest of the society on which it is currently dependent for its livelihood. Does Israel really want to bring the Haredim to economic independence? Wouldn't economic independence strengthen the Haredim's bargaining power and their appetite for imposing new arrangements in various areas? In the current situation of almost total economic dependence on state funds, the power of the Haredim is indeed felt, but it is limited. A unilateral decision by the Israeli government to cut off funding for the Haredi day-schools and yeshivot would weaken them greatly, even to the point of collapse. The Haredi leaders are well aware of this, and they are therefore careful not to make far-reaching demands. Economic independence would also give them much greater room to maneuver without being influenced by the constant need for government funds.
In other words, the Haredi challenge is complex and dealing with it requires setting preferences and priorities that will dictate recommended approaches. In any case, we cannot assume that dealing with the problem requires flexibility (or "submission") only from the Haredim, and it is important to understand that the non-Haredi community, in overcoming one of the challenges, will likely pay a price that it had not necessarily anticipated in relation to the others.
The Basic Question: What kind of Haredim does Israel want?
All of the challenges presented above are in effect an expression of the essential question that Israeli society has to confront – what kind of Haredi community is it interested in (or, regrettably, is it willing to tolerate)? To put it bluntly, there are four possible choices that different policies are likely to lead us to:
Basic questions for the Haredim too
Alongside the lively debate taking place in the non-Haredi community, Haredi leaders also need to define long- and short-term priorities for themselves – while understanding that the status quo has led to a crisis in their relations with other segments of society. The Haredi leadership must take many and various considerations into account as it weighs this issue, although it seems that it is possible to boil these down to two main questions:
Basic Numerical Data
Population size: According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the Haredi population numbers 500,000. Of the Jewish population: 8% define themselves as Haredim; 12% as religious; 13% as traditional-religious; 25% as traditional; and 42% as secular. See: Selected Data from the Social Survey, 2009. Religiosity in Israel – Characteristics of Different Groups. Other assessments claim that the population of Haredim of all types numbers some 850,000 people. By 2020, its relative size is projected to almost double and the Haredim are projected to be 11% of the population aged 25-65.
Draft: 16% of Haredi youth are drafted (compared to 75% among the general Israeli population). Similarly, 1,282 Haredim (17%) were drafted into the IDF out of a total of 7,500 boys in the relevant age group in 2011. The percentage of those receiving a service deferment is steadily rising: the number of yeshiva students who entered the "Torah study is my occupation" framework, by which they are entitled to a deferment of service, increased from 41,000 in 2005 to 62,500 in 2011.
Poverty: Poverty rates among the Haredi population are extremely high. This can be attributed to three factors: low employment rates; low salaries resulting from lack of training; and the high number of children that does not allow them to rise above the poverty line.
Employment: According to the CBS, 61% of Haredi women work (88% of secular women) compared to only 52% of Haredi men (93% of secular men). The National Economic Council states that the employment rate among Haredi women is 57% and 40.4% among Haredi men. A broad effort (led by JDC and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment) that is coordinated with the Haredi leadership has enabled 3,500 Haredim to integrate into the work-force, and the KEMACH Fund, which helps Haredim to enter vocational training programs and higher education has awarded 13,000 tuition grants in recent years. Most of the graduates of vocational training programs find works in their fields. With help from the Haredi frameworks – including Haredi campuses integrated within universities – the committee on budget and planning of the Israeli Council for Higher Education plans to increase significantly the number of Haredi students, from 3,750 at the beginning of the 2011-2012 academic year to 12,000 in 2015 (See: The Calcalist).
Suggestions for Further Reading:
Worst-case scenarios arising from drafting the Haredim, see: Simulation Abstracts: The Ramifications of the Tal Law's Abolition, The Open University, 3.9.2012
Recommendations for drafting Haredim into the army or into civic/national service, see Main Courses of Action for Arranging the Drafting of Yeshiva Students into the IDF or Civic/National Service, Shmuel Neaman Institute for National Policy Research, 4.3.2012
Recommendations for integrating the "core curriculum", see: Maayan Shahaf and Yehuda Morgenstern, Report on EMC (English, Mathematics, Computers) Studies, Shmuel Neaman Institute, 6.5.2012.
Proposals for integrating the Haredi population in education, the economy and the army, see: Reuven Gal, Integration of the Haredim: Model, Scenarios and Mapping, Shmuel Neaman Institute, March 2012.