Issues of religion, state and multiculturalism raise significant questions about values and politics everywhere. In Israel’s splintered society, these questions often arouse strong polemics between the various sectors and their representatives. Take the following example: Politicians, academics and social activists — whether ultra-Orthodox, religious or secular — may agree that ultra-Orthodox Jews should be encouraged to enter the work force. They may even agree that the best way to achieve this goal is through higher education. However, they do not agree on the social price that must be paid to realize this goal. There is even less agreement on who, exactly, should pay that price.
According to data from the Bank of Israel, about 44.5% of ultra-Orthodox men are part of the work force today (compared with about 78% of the non-ultra-Orthodox population). Most are employed in lower-paid positions, which perpetuates the poverty of their population and increases their burden on society at large.