Photo Credit:
Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman

‘Our soldiers bring a great deal of pride to the community and to their families. Our job is to enable these soldiers to serve without compromising their religious lifestyle, and we are able to work with the army on this fully.’ The system works, he said. ‘Many of the soldiers we have worked with are now working and supporting families. They are our best ambassadors. We are here and ready to help any haredi soldier who joins the army to learn Torah, to provide spiritual support, and to find the appropriate service framework,’ he said.”

There is an element of the new draft law which is also less known but is more important than the haredim who are now serving in the IDF or national service.  Until this law was passed, anyone who did not serve was not allowed to legally join the workforce until they were post army age – close to 30 years old.  This meant that young men who did not want to learn day and night were somewhat trapped since ideologically they would not serve and legally they could not work.


In order to jumpstart a culture which values work, we wrote into this law that anyone who was 22 years or older when the law was passed, was free to legally go to work.  They did not have to stay in yeshiva or kollel simply because they had nowhere else to go.  And we put hundreds of millions of shekel into the state budget to provide job training and to help find jobs for any young haredi who wants to enter the job market and sustain their families with dignity.

The result has been a 300% increase in haredim seeking employment.  I head the Knesset taskforce to help haredim enter the job market and the projects we have set up throughout the country receive an average of 500 resumes per month from haredim seeking to find work and support their families with dignity.

These figures indicate nothing short of a quiet revolution on a street level for haredim who realize that they can be Talmudic scholars of the highest caliber, fervently committed religiously, and sustain their families with dignity.  We have met with CEO’s of major companies and convinced them that it is worth their while to hire haredim.  Reports are coming back to us about what wonderful employees the haredim are and, especially in the hi-tech realm, how creative they are in their thinking, no doubt the result of years of Talmudic study.  In addition, remarkable stories of unity are emerging as haredi and secular Israel meets for the first time in the workplace.  Haredim come to realize that secular Israelis are not as horrific as they had been led to believe and secular Israelis discover that haredim are wonderful people.

The last element of our activity this past year relating to the haredi community is regarding general studies in schools.  Soon after the 2013 elections Adina bar Shalom, daughter of Rav Ovadiah Yosef, zt”l, told me that the most important thing we could do is to institute basic math and English into all haredi schools.  She explained that without those tools, when they try to get training at a later stage in institutions like her Haredi College of Jerusalem, they cannot catch up and 50% of the boys drop out.

We cut budgets to schools that don’t teach basic general studies but promised full funding to any school which accepts basic general studies – subjects which don’t in any way contradict Torah values or tradition.

Thank G-d, this past Elul, over 50 mainstream haredi schools opened with basic general studies and it is going so well that many more have asked to join this program for next year.  I visited some of these schools and remarkable things are happening. Many boys have said that their davening and Torah learning has improved because they have two hours a day of different subjects and because, in general they are happier knowing they are getting skills for a future which is not limited to full time Torah study alone.

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Rabbi Lipman, a member of the 19th Knesset, is the author of the recently-published “Coming Home: Living in the Land of Israel in Jewish Tradition and Thought” (Gefen Publishing).