In today’s HaAretz newspaper, Aluf Benn has written an important column on a looming and entirely internal threat to Israel’s society—the lack of integration of two rapidly growing population groups:
… In the current school year, 47.5 percent of first-graders are either Arabs or Haredim (ultra-Orthodox). The growth rate of the Haredi school system is 39 times greater than that of the state secular schools, and that of the Arab school system is 13 times greater. These are not demographic forecasts, which can turn out to be false; these are children who have already been born and are awaiting their turn in the education system. This is reality.
… A different, multicultural society is developing here — a trinational state of secular Jews, Haredim and Arabs, with a small minority of religious Zionists.
… These three communities have different narratives and lack a common, unifying national ethos. Cohabitation has been imposed on them. Even worse, the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs are not obliged to serve in the army, and most Haredi men and Arab women do not work. If this situation continues, who will protect the state, and who will pay for the growing population of welfare recipients?
“The gaps in military service create a sense of injustice, but the problem of employment is really existential,” a senior government economist warned. “We have about 15 years to resolve this. If we fail, Israel will not be able to sustain itself: For every worker, we will have four people not working.”
It is hard to exaggerate the severity of the situation, or the complexity of the challenge. The Arabs want to work, but are finding it difficult to break the walls of isolation and discrimination erected by the Jewish majority. Among the Haredim, a social norm has taken root that prefers Torah study to work. Both communities are non-Zionist and are suspicious of and hostile toward the authorities. …
Still, Mr. Benn holds out the hope that these two groups can be successfully integrated into Israeli society. Click here to read the entire column.
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