(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
NEW YORK – Israel’s economy is strong and successful, but it suffers from two main problems: the low rate of participation by Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men in the labor force, and the issue of peace, said former Bank of Israel governor, Stanley Fischer.
On Sunday, Fischer called Israel’s educational system “bad” in light of the fact that it is divided into four different sectors according to sectors.
However, during a speech in New York, Fisher was full of praise for Israel’s economy and its “warm” society.
Fischer, who served as governor of the Bank of Israel for eight years, until 2013, and recently quit his position as vice chairman of the US Federal Reserve, was the key speaker at the annual Excel Summit in New York.
The Excel program is a part of Michael Steinhardt’s Birthright program which has brought over 600,000 Jewish young adults to Israel. The free trips aim to strengthen their Jewish identity, facilitating cultural understanding and fostering solidarity with Israel and its people.
After praising Israel’s economy and its hi-tech nation, Fischer pointed to two problems the country faces. First, “The role of religion,” as he defined it; when the fact is “people do not talk about it very much – that ultra-Orthodox men have extremely low participation in the labor force. Now, is that because they don’t pay taxes or because they don’t work? “Well a Rabbi that I have become relatively friendly with, told me: What do you think? That people are living by the salaries [that] they’re reporting to you? Of course not, they’re not declaring what they’re making. They are doing much better.
Well it’s nice to keep saying that but still, they’re not doing well and this is a very serious issue.”
Fischer added that “the other issue is peace” and the huge defense budget of the Israeli government. Still, he said, “we should be careful. Israel has to remain very strong,” especially in the face of the Iranian threat.
The Excel program’s goal is to build an elite group of high-performing college students and graduates from leading North-American universities and connect them with Israeli businesspeople.
It offers participants a 10 weeks internship with Israeli companies in a wide range of fields – start-ups, biotech, consulting, finance and more. The program has more than 250 alumni; many of whom participated in the summit.