Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Dec/10

28

He who does not work must eat bread!

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Some Israelis Question Benefits for Ultra-Religious:

Chaim Amsellem was certainly not the first Israeli Parliament member to suggest that most ultra-Orthodox men should work rather than receive welfare subsidies for full-time Torah study. But when he did so last month, the nation took notice: He is a rabbi, ultra-Orthodox himself, whose outspokenness ignited a fresh, and fierce, debate about the rapid growth of the ultra-religious in Israel.

“Torah is the most important thing in the world,” Rabbi Amsellem said in an interview. But now more than 60 percent of ultra-Orthodox men in Israel do not work, compared to 15 percent in the general population, and he argued that full-time, state-financed study should be reserved for great scholars destined to become rabbis or religious judges.

“Those who are not that way inclined,” he said, “should go out and earn a living.”

In reaction, he was ousted from his own ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, whose leaders vilified him with such venom that he was assigned a bodyguard. The party newspaper printed a special supplement describing Rabbi Amsellem as “Amalek,” the biblical embodiment of all evil.

Though watch what you ask for: once the ultra-Orthodox join the labor force and no longer are so dependent on state subsidies, they’ll more more politically influential, not less. Those who pay the piper are more assertive in their demands.

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4 comments

  • Stephen · December 28, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    “Those who pay the piper are more assertive in their demands.”

    Maybe that’s the way it used to be, but considering things like the student riots in the U.K., I think it is now that those who have spare time are more assertive. If the ultra-Orthodox join the labor force they may be too busy to cause problems, which will reduce their influence. Maybe that is why the Shas Party is so upset.

  • John · December 30, 2010 at 3:45 am

    I agree with Stephen.

    “He who rows the boat has less time to rock it.”

    I saw this on a sugar packet, with lots of other wise sayings, like, “An optimist can never be pleasantly surprised.”

  • Nemo · December 30, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Here we have men who do not work and who are supported at a poverty level by their society. Now (perhaps) they will be going to work. But their education has been almost exclusivley religious, thus it seems likely they will be fit for only low paying and unpleasant work. And, if they continue to have families averaging 8 kids, they will presumably still require government assistance and they will live at more or less the same level as before. So they may think that if they have to work they might as well acquire some marketable skills to improve their lot. And even more they may think their sons should be educated so that they will have marketable skills when the time comes for them to join the workforce. Over time the ultra- Orthodox could come to be more like the Modern Orthodox and contribute more to their society than they take out.

  • panglos · December 31, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Having such a large portion of the devout on the dole is not a very successful business plan for any religion.

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