Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Israel's Tal Law and a Sense of Self-Entitlement

I didn’t know until yesterday that this existed in Israeli law, but after reading the Jerusalem Post, I found out that there was such a law called the Tal Law. The article gives a good explanation of what it entails:

"The centerpiece recommendation, later ratified by the Knesset as part of the Tal Law, was to give yeshiva students aged 22 the option to take a one-year leave of absence, without facing immediate conscription, during which they could learn a trade or work. After that year was over, they could either return to the yeshiva, or perform a minimal military stint (four months with reserve duty) or national service (one full year) before being free to embark on a career."

As the article states, there are some issues regarding this law. The first is that only 3.5% of Haredim serve in the army. Although one might think that the Haredim are as sparse in American Jewish society as they are in Israel might want to re-examine. Again, referring to the article, “Currently, 48% of elementary school students are either haredi or Arab and, as highlighted in these columns before, that is set to rise to 78% by 2040.” Demographically speaking, that causes a slight problem because all this becomes is a legislatively licit form of draft-dodging. With a country surrounded by antagonistic enemies that want to see nothing more than the demise of Israel, that’s just a poor approach to long-term national security.

This goes beyond military service. The Israeli government also does this with regards to them working in general. About 70,000 married men receive annual state-funded stipends of NIS 10,000, and 33,000 unmarried young men receive about NIS 5,700 a year. The total annual yeshiva budget is about NIS 1 billion, which is nearly $270M.

How the Israel gives preferential treatment to yeshiva students is an outrage. Israel, you are willingly perpetuating the welfare system within your own borders. Because of this pandering to the Haredi community, it directly results in your high poverty (23.6%) and moderately high unemployment (7.4%...not as high as the States, but still!). As the Haredi population increases and the secular population decreases, the welfare state in Israel will only grow. If suicide bombers don’t blow up Israel, Israel will certainly commit national suicide by maintaining upholding this toches-kissing.

It’s not enough that it hinders Israel from its fullest economic potential. What really sets me off about the whole arrangement is why. For Haredim, Torah study supersedes military service, as well as having a job. Not only does their level of presumptuousness reek of holier-than-thou self-righteousness, but it is decidedly un-Jewish.

What exactly do I mean when I say it’s un-Jewish? What I mean by that is we were meant to work. Regarding work, the Torah says this: “Six days you shall labor, and the seventh you shall rest (Ex. 34:21).” How do I know that this goes beyond productivity, whether economic or erudite? Because all the Talmudic rabbis still had jobs to maintain the livelihood. Because Rabbi Gamiliel (Pirke Avot 2:2) [as well as subsequent commentary on this verse] says that study of Torah with a worldly occupation is a great thing.  Because King David realized the value of work when he said (Psalm 128:2) "When you eat the labor of your hands, happy you shall be and it shall be well with you."  Because King Solomon realized the perils of dependency when he said in Proverbs 15:27, "He that is greedy of gain troubles his own house; but he that hates gifts shall live."

The fashion in which Israeli Haredim behave is even more despicable than the welfare queens of America because they mooch off the government in the name of religion.  For the sake of Israel, I hope that the Israeli government does the fair, democratic thing not only by making everybody serve, but even more importantly, eradicate the welfare system to stop the mentality of self-entitlement.  That way, the Jewish people can raise their heads up high knowing their livelihood is not dependent on the gifts of others.     

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