Naftali Bennett at Ramla conference 370.
(photo credit: Courtesy Ramla conference)
Discussing the government’s new “Equalizing the Burden” legislation, Economics
and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday spoke directly – and emphatically
– to employers.
“Don’t be suckers,” he said. “Hire Haredim and
Bennett made his comments in Ramle at a conference on the
challenges of balancing Israel’s Jewish and democratic characters, including the
burden of IDF or alternative national service.
The economics and trade
minister said he expected 33,000 haredim to be entering the workforce as part of
new legislation, which would bring about a “revolution” on a number of
He also offered advice for members of the expected haredi
workforce, suggesting they “should not became lawyers and accountants but go
into hi-tech and engineering.”
In a comic moment, Bennett said he was
giving his advice even though he had “made the mistake of becoming a lawyer.” He
then apologized to retired Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner, who was present
at the conference.
Dorner replied by saying she also thought there were
too many lawyers.
Most of Bennett’s talk focused on explaining the
principles of the proposed legislation, which he backed. The government is
expected to take up the matter in the near future, and the minister said it
could be passed within four months.
The law, he said, would get haredim
working, get them involved in military or national service, and strengthen the
world of Torah study.
Bennett broke down the legislation into two phases.
In the first four years, haredim aged 22 or more would be encouraged to join the
The second phase would involve the conscription of most haredi
males below the age of 22 into military or another form of national service;
1,800 of the most talented Torah students would continue to study and receive
larger stipends than are currently paid.
Bennett added that the state
would not be telling anyone he could not study Torah.
Instead, it would
limit its financial support for such study to three years for those not selected
each year to be part of the elite 1,800.
He also commented on Bayit
Yehudi’s relationship with Yesh Atid, calling it a successful “tactical”
alliance and noting that one of the benefits of working with the more secular
party would be a law “for the first time in history the State of Israel
officially recognizing learning Torah as a value.”
Reflecting on other
lessons of the alliance, Bennett said that “even if we disagree, we
Everyone needs to know how to listen.” Turning toward equality and
identity in the Israeli-Arab sector, he admitted that at one time there had been
“no equality for Arabs,” but implied that since then things had
Bennett did discuss some areas where he had strong opinions
regarding the Israeli- Arab sector. On one hand he stated that police needed to
do a better job providing security in Israeli-Arab villages and that employers
should make greater efforts to hire Israeli- Arab women. On the other hand, he
said that respecting individual liberties would not reduce his strident
opposition to developing a parallel Israeli-Arab identity as part of the State
At one point, a member of the predominantly nationalreligious
audience interrupted his speech, asking why he was encouraging the hiring of
The answer was simple: “Arab women are equal citizens
Also at the conference Rabbi Dov Lior, a controversial figure
and chief rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba, expressed support for the coalition’s
proposals on legislation for haredi enlistment.
“This is not a decree;
they want to arrange things properly,” he said. “These are not the decrees of
Time will tell and things will settle down.” Lior is a
leader of the more conservative wing of the national-religious community, which
is generally more supportive of prolonged yeshiva study, even if it comes at the
expense of national service.
He expressed concerns earlier this year over
reforms that would prevent full-time yeshiva students from continuing their
studies if they so wished.
During his speech at the Ramle conference, he
reiterated his support for ongoing state funding for these
“Someone who dedicates his life to the world of Torah – and
Torah study demands day and night toil – the state will recognize him,” Lior
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.