(photo credit: Benjamin Spier)
A bill proposed by United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush to guarantee in law equal
representation for haredim in the public sector was defeated in a preliminary
hearing in the Knesset on Wednesday after a fierce debate in the
The proposed law – defeated by a vote of 40-24 – would have
provided for affirmative action for haredim in appointments to positions in all
government offices and the civil service, in order to ease the path for haredim
to enter the workforce specifically in the realm of public service.
explanation for the bill claimed that the haredi community, like other sectors
of the population, suffers from discrimination and difficulties in integrating
into the workforce in general and the public sector in particular.
presenting the bill to the Knesset plenum, Porush said by way of example that
dozens of young haredim who had received law degrees in recent years experienced
significant problems in being accepted for positions in the State Attorney’s
Office, even though they had the appropriate qualifications.
report from the Economy Ministry, Porush also claimed that haredi job-seekers
with academic qualifications received less requests for interviews than the
applicants from the non-haredi public.
He also noted that affirmative
action for other minorities such as Ethiopians and Druse was rooted in
legislation and said a similar law for haredim would be an important step in
getting the population into the labor market.
“I think this bill will
show if we really do want to integrate those haredim who have decided that they
are not able to continue to study Torah and want to integrate into the
workforce, [and if there is] a real will to help those haredim, or whether this
whole issue... is just a way to create arguments with the haredi
But Justice Minister Tzipi Livni took to the podium to
oppose the bill, and denied that there is any need for such a proposal or that
any discrimination against haredim exists.
“Yes, the haredi community is
not represented enough in the labor market,” she noted.
“[But] this stems
from, among other reasons, your unwillingness to integrate into Israeli
You are not negatively discriminated against but rather refuse to
accept the yoke of the state and the law,” she told the haredi MKs present in
“Haredim are a minority, but not a minority that is
discriminated against. There is no factual evidence that attributes the kind of
discrimination faced by the Ethiopian, Arab or even disabled communities to the
haredi population. There is no basis for the claim of discrimination as a
group,” Livni continued.
“Instead of coming up with claims, I recommend
you work toward integration into society,” she advised.
Porush did not
take kindly to Livni’s scolding and said she should apply her resolve at
bringing peace between Israel and the Palestinians to helping reconcile “the
poles” in Israeli society.
Male haredi employment is significantly below
that of the non-haredi public.
Data published by the Bank of Israel in
2012 showed male haredi employment at 45.6 percent and female haredi employment
at 61.2%, compared to a national average of 77.7% for male employment and 66.3%
Haredi employment trends are believed to be on the increase
though, as is the number of haredim entering higher education.
noted during his speech from the Knesset podium that some 7,000 haredim are
currently studying in higher education courses, and added that approximately
11,000 haredim had completed professional courses “in recent
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Dr. Haim Zicherman, a researcher
at the Israel Democracy Institute for its Project on Religion and State, said
that discrimination does indeed exist against haredim in the
He explained that employers are often concerned about what
will be demanded from them by haredi employees, and worry about having to
implement gender-separate work areas, or providing for the kashrut needs of
their haredi workers in the workplace.
Zicherman noted that very few
members of the ultra-Orthodox community work currently in the civil service and
said that affirmative action for haredim would be a positive step in integrating
them into the workforce.