Outgoing Israel Bank Governor Stanley Fischer delivered a farewell speech, expressing his concern regarding the rate of demographic growth in the Haredi sector. He fears that, within 50 years, Israeli secular Jews will become the minority.
Fischer said these remarks in a speech at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, suggesting that “the growth rate of the Haredi population is 4.2%, which means that within 17 years the Haredi population will double.”
Fischer also said: “The Arab population doubles in 25 years, while for the rest of the population the growth rate is 1.7% — which means that it would takes 40 years to double. If current trends continue, within 50 years the secular population will be minority. This cannot continue.”
Fischer described the process as “a demographic problem.”
A passage in the opening chapter of the Book of Exodus describes a similar dilemma, faced by another state official:
“Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the children of Israel are more plentiful and mightier than us. Come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply.”
Fischer said the core of the demographic problem is that Haredim and Arabs do not enter the labor market: “Poverty here is the central story. There’s unbearable poverty among the Arabs and the Haredim. We must take care of this. It’s true that a lot of it is the result of tradition or the behavior of the community, such as the issue of participation in the labor market, but we must encourage them to enter the workforce, and it is happening now,” Fischer was quoted in The Marker.
Except that, according to an Ha’aretz report in early May, Fischer told Finance Minister Yair Lapid that the efforts to get Haredi men and Arab women to join the workforce by reducing entitlements needed to be done gradually and with appropriate training.
So, while the Israel Bank Governor is aware of the fact that mainstreaming the Haredim is best done through a long and benign process, preferably one in which they, too, have some say—it doesn’t appear that Fischer sees the worst problem as being Haredi poverty, or their burden on the state’s welfare budget.
What really scares him is the fact that in our lifetime the largest Jewish population in Israel will be the Haredim. Can’t have that.