Elad mayor Yitzhak Idan and Minister Shalom Simhon 311.
(photo credit: Religious Press Line)
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon on Tuesday toured haredi areas
to investigate ways of integrating a larger percentage of the community into the
He began the day with a visit to the Building Technology
College in Holon, which runs several training courses that cater to haredi
He met officials who work with the haredi community, including
representatives from the Joint Distribution Committee’s Tevet (fighting poverty
through employment) program and Shahar, a program devoted to promoting
professional training among haredi soldiers.
Simhon told the gathering it
was not his place to get into a debate about the haredi way of life, saying he
was concerned only with finding ways to improve the low workforce participation
of specific minority groups, including haredim.
“You don’t have to agree
with my way of life, and I don’t have to agree with your way of life,” he said.
“So I don’t want to enter into this [the haredi] world, I want to find ways to
integrate it [into the labor force].”
Simhon, a member of Independence,
the breakaway Labor faction, became the industry, trade and labor minister in
January. He has said increasing haredi participation in the labor force is one
of his top priorities.
Simhon said there was no reason why young haredim
couldn’t combine a career with their religious studies, just as secular people
combine their careers with other pursuits.
He said he wanted to learn
more about what influenced young haredim, males and females, to decide whether
to learn a profession.
Officials at the gathering praised the
establishment of government-funded professional training programs for haredi
youths in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and other locations, although some suggested that
such projects could be expanded.
According to statistics from the
National Council for Economics in the Prime Minister’s Office, about 37 percent
of haredi men participate in the workforce, compared with 67% of the total male
population, while 48% of haredi women participate, compared with 57% overall.
The haredi population numbers about 700,000 people, close to 10% of Israel’s
After the gathering, Simhon attended a graduation ceremony of
haredi soldiers from an electricians’ course.
He then traveled to the
mainly haredi town of Elad, where he met with municipality officials and toured