Besides becoming more like their “Agudah” counterparts in the United States, thousands of Israeli Haredim also have enlisted in special fields in the IDF, belying accusations that they are “draft dodgers.”
“The move from the yeshiva to the university is based on economics, not ideology,” explains Israeli journalist Yisrael Gellis.
He told The Jewish Press, “Young married yeshiva students reached the conclusion they have to work to support their families.
“Approximately 25,000 Haredim have been learning as far back as five years ago, but the media always disparage them and do not report the new trend.”
The “Open University,” which allows students to learn at home, has attracted more than 600 Haredim, according to Gellis. Significantly, 150 of them are from what Gellis calls one of the most “fanatic” Haredi sects. Yeshiva rabbis have encouraged the new trend but “without force,” Gellis said.
He added that many Haredim have found themselves without work after receiving university degrees because some secular employers are prejudiced against them.
A study by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, cited by the Globes business newspaper, sheds light on the “new Haredim.”
The students include more than 2,000 Haredim, approximately half of whom said their choice of a profession to study was personal and not based on market demand or the potential for career promotion.
The students are attending universities and colleges to learn professional skills through the Kemach Foundation for Promoting Haredi Employment. The organization, heavily financed by the Wolfson Foundation and other philanthropic contributors, offers scholarships to 6,000 Haredi students, almost all of whom are married with children. Women account for 20 percent of the students.
The Ministry of Industry has a long-term plan to being Haredim as well as Arabs into the work force.
An overwhelming majority of the Haredi students’ families have support from their families and spouses, according to the study.
However, a sizable minority of 30 percent said they are studying despite lack or support or outright opposition towards a new lifestyle.
The government report unintentionally noted the center-left and secular bias against Haredim, stating that the growth in the number of Haredi students studying contradicts “pessimistic assessments.”
Gellis also told The Jewish Press that despite the popular secular claim that Haredim avoid the military draft, an increasing number of Haredi youth have opted for the IDF’s special programs that trains them for technical skills.
More than 5,000 Haredi youth have enlisted in the IDF’ Shakhar KaKhol (Blue Dawn) program that offer Israeli youth an 18-month study program to acquire technical skills that are then used in the Air Force and which give them employment opportunities after completing military service.