“Well, to find a job, like everyone else here,” was Ya’akov’s smiling answer to
the question of what brought him to Sunday’s haredi employment fair in
The 31-year-old Jerusalem resident was one of an estimated
4,000 ultra-Orthodox men and women who flocked to Binyanei Ha’uma to be exposed
to a variety of frameworks offered to haredim seeking to enter the employment
force. Booths representing a plethora of employers ranging from Bezeq to Beit
Shemesh Engines and the Jerusalem Municipality were stationed alongside a few
military and national service representatives, who provided information about
the unique programs they offered haredi men, with the colleges and vocational
training institutions scattered throughout.
A father of three who has
reduced the time he spends studying in favor of work, Ya’akov was looking for a
serious job, but said he was not planning on higher education to that end. “I
don’t have the time or energy to study now,” he said.
“We had no idea so
many people would show up for this,” said Eti Meller, who in her capacity at the
JDC’s Tevet was one of the event’s organizers. Other partners behind the day
were the Jerusalem Municipality and the Ministry of Labor, Trade and Industry.
Meller estimated that over 2,000 women arrived for the first part of the day –
which was divided between men and women – vying for some 600 positions offered
“If we knew there would be such an outcome, we would have
brought more businesses,” she said. “This is an opportunity for employers to
find high quality manpower, who really want to work.”
A recurring theme
among those involved in helping haredim into the labor market is the fact that
“you can no longer say that haredim don’t want to work. That’s simply false. The
challenge now lies with the employers and the state, who need to help them into
jobs,” said Daniel Weil, who works for the Machshava Tova (good thought) NGO,
which seeks to diminish social gaps through technology – training primarily
Arabs and haredim on basic computer skills. Weil spent the day helping the men
and women compile CVs at the fair.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat would seem
to agree with the essence of Weil’s remarks.
“There are not enough
businesses to take the people, we are working on creating more spots, and making
progress, but there is still more demand on the behalf of potential workers than
supply of jobs,” said Barkat in a conversation with representatives of the
Kemach Foundation, which is one of the leading private bodies providing
professional and academic training to haredi adults.
“We need to be
market makers,” the mayor stressed, “and not give up even one square meter that
has been allocated as a work zone in Jerusalem.”
Barkat noted the plan to
create 13 high-rise office buildings at the entrance to the capital, as well as
expand the Atarot industrial zone to the end of creating more employment
At the Teva booth, Frenchborn Arnaud Smadja politely
inquired whether there were openings for computer programmers.
34-yearold Jerusalem resident, has completed his third year of computer
sciences, and the fourth – after which he will be a software engineer – will be
less intensive, and allow him some time to work. The decision to dedicate four
years to a demanding course of study came after when he first started to look
around for work, Smadja and his wife realized that “without a degree, you can’t
really go very far,” and to support a family of four children, he would need a
job with a decent income.
Teva was not looking for part-time employees,
but the HR woman took a copy of Smadja’s CV in case there are openings in the
future. “I worked very had on this degree, and I’m sure I’ll find something
good,” he said with a smile. “The market is lively, there is a demand for
“The true social revolution is taking place here in Jerusalem,
in the haredi sector,” said Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon,
who visited the fair. “Bringing haredim into the workforce is a condition for
the country’s economic growth in the next years.”
Simhon added that in
the next months his ministry will amalgamate all the bodies involved in
absorbing haredim into the labor market.