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Lapid Criticizes Idle Ultra-Orthodox For Hurting Israeli Economy

The absence of the ultra-Orthodox from Israel's job market is a real threat to the state, but the aggressive attempts by Finance Minister Yair Lapid to solve the wrong problem will have the opposite effect.
An Israeli soldier sleeps as ultra-Orthodox Jewish youths pray on Tisha B'Av at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City July 16, 2013. Tisha B'Av, a day of fasting and lament, is traditionally the date in the Jewish calendar on which the First and Second Temples were destroyed, respectively in the sixth century B.C. by the Babylonians and the first century A.D. by the Romans. REUTERS/Baz Ratner (JERUSALEM - Tags: RELIGION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTX11O0M
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The most frightening man in the state of Israel is probably professor Dan Ben-David of Tel Aviv University. Ben-David, a renowned economics lecturer, is actually a pleasant and affable individual, but the message he bears should be disquieting for any Israeli concerned with the future of his country. As executive director of the Taub Center of Social Policy Studies, Ben-David goes around the lecture circuit and meets people all over the country, illustrating with the help of diagrams and dry statistical data the extent to which the survival of the state of Israel cannot be taken for granted.

The data reveals the annual rate of increase in the number of Israelis who do not participate in the workforce. They are not listed as unemployed because they're not even looking for work. Most of them are ultra-Orthodox. As the percentage of ultra-Orthodox in the population grows — and it has been growing steadily and speedily — the percentage of productive Israelis participating in the workforce grows smaller. Ben-David concludes that given the current state of things, the Israeli economy will soon no longer be able to continue to support the non-working ultra-Orthodox population. Quality of life in Israel is relatively high, but it could have been far higher had there not been an entire sector that has — for years — refrained from joining the job market out of a rigid religious ideology. Unless a radical change takes place, Israel is marching toward the edge of an abyss. The system that has been in place for 65 years simply cannot be viable for much longer.

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