Weekly Commentary: How Does Israel Deal With A Growing Segment Of Society
Which Chooses Low Income
Dr. Aaron Lerner 13 February, 2021
A recent column in the Israeli business publication, Globes, argued that
Haredim do not "live off the state" because they are essentially no
different than other low income Israeli families.
That is not the point.
An individual Israeli family certainly has the right in our democratic
society to intentionally opt for a low-income life.
But that most certainly does not mean that it is improper for this same
democratic society to be concerned when a growing segment of society makes
We are a society with a high overhead - defense, health and the rest of the
This overhead is covered by taxes.
Lower income families pay less income tax and also engage in lifestyles
which, in turn mean paying a lot less in other various taxes than a higher
income family pays,
So when a segment of society opts for a lower income life, they are also
actively opting to bear a smaller share of the cost of our high overhead
than they represent in the
And the larger that this segment of society is, the great the size of the
burden which is shifted to be borne by the rest of society.
Haredim often cite the midrash that Jacob's blessings to Zebulun and
Issachar (Genesis 49) established a model according to which the tribe of
Zebulun would financially support a life of Torah study by the tribe of
Truly implementing this model requires that the 50% of male haredim who do
work equip themselves with the skill set needed to be such high earners that
they can offset the other 50%.
Instead we are witness to the tragedy that the intentional decision to
postpone acquiring basic math, English and other skills until their 20's has
resulted in that only 24% of Haredi men who begin studies towards a college
Our challenge, as a collective which includes this growing segment, is to
find a way to remove the self imposed (and other) barriers which now prevent
"Haredi Zebuluns" from fulfilling the midrash.
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