Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Which Threat Is Scarier?

My two youngest children, ages 10 and 6, had a scary day at school in which everyone was talking about the missiles falling in various parts of Israel. After school, as they were walking home from the bus-stop, a car alarm went off. Unfortunately, they thought it was a missile alert siren. Terrified, they ran to a nearby shul, but it was locked. They stood next to the shul, shaking in fear, until they finally saw people in the streets and decided that it was safe to come home. My wife and I spent the last few hours trying to calm them down and put them to sleep; they are deeply traumatized.

I am crying inside for my children's pain. But personally, I don't feel so scared about missiles, because Beit Shemesh is in a relatively safe region, and in the unlikely event that there is a siren, we will go to our protected room. Furthermore, Israel's massive military advantage means that not only do we have early-warning systems, but we also have ways to shoot missiles down.

I'm personally much more scared about the headline on the front page of The Jerusalem Post today: "Israel Under Threat." Published before the missiles started falling, it's speaking about a different and broader threat: the fact that a rapidly expanding portion of the population does not receive any kind of meaningful secular education. This does not only affect the economy; it will also result in Israel no longer possessing a military advantage. Here's the money quote:
“Being situated in one of the planet’s most dangerous regions, Israel requires a first-world army to simply continue to exist. Maintaining a first-world army requires a first-world economy. But roughly half of Israel’s children (not just the ultra-Orthodox) are receiving a third-world education, and they belong to the fastest growing population streams. As adults, they will only be able to maintain a third-world economy, with all that this entails regarding Israel’s future physical existence."

This is a grave long-term threat to Israel. And it's very difficult to address, because the charedi community is so resistant to providing an education to their children, and because as the charedi community grows, so does their government power.

There is no single or simple solution to this very serious problem. I do have a strategy to partially address some aspects of it, and if there are serious people out there with the resources and desire to do something about it, I would like to meet with them. If you fall into that category, please be in touch; I am flying to the US tomorrow.

36 comments:

  1. If you want to think of straight cold statistics, Israelis should be far more scared of traveling on a highway than rockets.Even the worst of the Second Intifada cost fewer lives than Israeli drivers during the same period.

    But fear doesn't work that way.

    As for education, trends will reverse when they have to. They already are starting to. Go to the tech park just south of Machla mall, Y-m. Count how many chareidim are getting caught up in michalalot in just that one building complex, learning HS math through whatever they need to become upper middle class professionals. That is the future chareidi. Economic pressure will solve its own problems.

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    1. Read the article. Those "catch-up" programs for charedim have a 75% dropout rate.

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    2. Le'at le'at... Yes, it's just beginning. But the fact that they can go at all and not get driven out of their neighborhoods is to my mind the more relevant point.

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    3. NS,

      although there are many practical and theological reasons why i disagree with your approach to this issue, that are too complex to address on your blog, i would like like to respond to your specific contention in the above comment.

      all institutions of higher learning engage in some form of triage, that decides who will graduate with appropriate qualifications. some do so in the admission process, while others do so in the graduation process.

      for instance, in the US where i went to medical school, the process for admission is very selective. most people who are not qualified don't bother applying, and among those who have strong qualifications and do apply, only a minority get accepted. because the triage is done prior to acceptance, american medical schools are able to maintain a 99% graduation rate. on the other hand, in certain european countries, it is relatively easy to get accepted in to medical school, but it is difficult to make it through, and only about a third of each incoming class graduates. these schools choose not to triage in the admissions process, but rather do so in the graduation process.

      each approach has it's advantages and disadvantages, and there is no way to decide that one is better than the other, they are just different.

      higher education in israel carries on it's triage prior to acceptance to a particular program, based on high school accomplishments and the psychometry exam. although it is very selective up front, the graduation rate is still far from 100%. if we would look at the percentage of non charedi first graders in the entire country who go on to get a professional degree, it is not above 25%. the reason why the drop out rate in the universities is not 75% (or higher) is simply that most of those who won't succeed have been triaged out before they ever get to university.

      on the other hand (for obvious reasons) the academic programs geared towards charedim choose to be very lax in their admission criteria, and carry out their triage during the program itself.

      therefore a 25% graduation rate is probably higher than that of non charedi society.

      in addition it pays to keep in mind that the secular universities are able to attract virtually 100% of those in (non charedi) society who are predestined to succeed in academics pursuits by virtue of their IQ and studious nature. on the other hand, for a variety of religious and social reasons, the upper percentiles of ability in the charedi world have little interest in secular academic pursuits, such that the charedi michlalot are geared (on average) toward the less capable percentiles.

      as such, a 25% graduation rate is a tremendous accomplishment, far outstripping that of the secular universities. whether it behooves charedi society to produce more or less professionals, is an internal question that charedi society will decide for itself, based on it's own values. but that it can do so with it's present educational structure, has been clearly established by the facts on the ground.

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    4. And the economic pressure drops when haredi parties and bibi are in government together. Look at the stats. When lapid cut kollel payments then enrollment on professional studies went up. And dropped subsequently after bibi booted him out, and reinstated the payments.
      There is no economic pressure. Only political pressure

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    5. Fozziebear,
      did you just make up that statistic, or do you have some basis for it?
      i am peripherally involved with the nachal charedi, and i remember how, when lapid succeeded in changing the draft law, recruitment for the nachal charedi dropped off significantly. for the first time in it's history, netzach yehuda was forced to accept significant numbers of secular recruits (some of whom didn't even want to be there), because of the drop in recruitment.
      many of the people involved in the nachal charedi are also involved in charedi higher education, and they told me that there was a similar drop off in recruitment experienced by the charedi michlalot.
      that's why i'm wondering where you got your statistics from.

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    6. "on the other hand (for obvious reasons) the academic programs geared towards charedim choose to be very lax in their admission criteria, and carry out their triage during the program itself."

      So these schools get to entice students with promises of non-destitution and keep the tuition money. Who's funding them- i.e. who's getting scammed here?

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    7. It is extremely difficult to enter into a rigorous academic program, especially in a STEM discipline, without having learned the basics commonly taught in elementary school and high school. This is like a real-life Billy Madison. The vast majority of smart people can't cram 12 years of elementary and high school math in a short period of time.

      The comparison with US med schools does not work. The high dropout rate for Hareidim in the remedial Israeli programs aimed at Hareidim is due to them not having the requisite foundational knowledge rather than these programs lacking proper admission criteria. If these remedial programs instituted admission criteria that are similar to the programs aimed at the general public, such as the bagrut, they'd have to close down altogether since the vast majority of Hareidim wouldn't be able to meet them.

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    8. "whether it behooves charedi society to produce more or less professionals, is an internal question that charedi society will decide for itself, based on it's own values."

      Its not an internal decision when you rely on other professionals to bankroll you.

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    9. In my opinion, blimey, I think the Charedi and ultra-Orthodox world Jews should abandon their thinking. This may come as a surprise to most Jews, but I am convinced that if Israel is to survive economically, financially, and military, as well as religion in general and Judaism in particular, we should abandon primitive thought and move toward enlightenment, the way of reform Jews and modern-orthodoxy. Unfurtonitly, as Rabbi Marc Shapiro points out, most modern-orthodox laypeople would be shocked to find out that their rabbis and biblical scholars don't believe as they do. for example, scholars agree that Noah's flood was either a myth (with a moral lesson) or a local event, which is more acceptable. It is very hard for people to reject the teachings they were taught as children and people often want to cling to ideas, even if irrational, but if we continue to act as we did 200 years ago, Judaism will disappear. I am aware that the Charedi community is growing (for now) and Islam (a very backward religion) is prevalent in the middle east and is today the fastest-growing religion. That being said, religion is entering the post-religious age. In America, stats show that in 2019, 65% of Americans considered themselves religious. That is a far cry from 2018. Meanwhile, since 2009, atheism has grown from 17% to 26%. It seems as though atheism were on the march. It's inevitable. Europe is cracking down on circumcision, Britain is posed at banning the procedure altogether. (Not a good thing for Jews.) Point is, fewer and fewer people are going to church. And the reason is: they see religion as irrational, a bearded god in the sky with ferry-winged angels playing harps. My solution to the problem? If this truly concerns you (and no doubt missiles are an issue, too) then we should educate our Jews. The trouble is, most Jews do not want to read books by non-Jews. The Rambam taught that people should educate themselves and develop their intellects to improve themselves and society. Cranking up the military in this scenario is unavoidable. The result, a safer Israel. What we need is a rational religion. If people recognize that people can believe in a religion that is rational and if Jews are willing to educate themselves outside of the Torah (no offense) then we can look to a brighter future. The problem is, will the Charedi challenge themselves with philosophy? Will they expose themselves to rational thought? They are surely smart people, no doubt. But even intelligent people can get caught up in non-rational ideas, respectfully. Please note that this is NOT an attack against Charedi beliefs but one avenue to solve the apparent crisis.

      I agree with the Rambam that the Torah is the greatest achievement ever known to man. But I disagree with many that all can be found in the Torah. Rabbi Slifkin pointed out himself that many Jews, if not most, rejected at first the Greek Aristarchus of Samos and Copernicus, who produced the heliocentric system for a model of the universe. That the world revolves around the sun and not the reverse. Today, most Jews wouldn't dare declare that the reverse was true. So too, should Jews study non-Jews today, for even the Greeks, although a pagan nation, taught some truths. Maimonides was correct when he said: "Seek the truth from whoever speaks it."

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    10. Such pessimism over and over has always and always loses

      אם תרצו אין זו אגדה

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  2. Look up Yaffed/ Naftuli Moster.
    Don't make the same mistake he made. Fighting any problem head on almost never accomplishes the goal.

    The real solution is to overwhelm the chareidim by encouraging the whole Lakewood NJ community to relocate to Israel. The American Bnei Torah are way more open minded and pragmatic this will influence the whole state of Israel for the better. They don't idol worship their Gedolim the same way the chareidim in Israel do.

    For some reason the American yeshivish don't generally make aliyah. If somehow this can be changed then many many issues and religious problems will be resolved.

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    1. Have you been to RBS? Very yeshivish and American. Many of them don't work. I don't know where the working American charedi olim educate their kids.

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  3. What you describe is indeed very serious.

    I can't ignore my gut however.
    The survival of the Jews through the generations is itself a miracle. The subsequent creation of the state along with nearly being driven into the sea multiple times is even more impressive.

    We know how to defy odds and something tells me we'll get through this one as well.

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    1. In what condition though - or, at what cost? The "Jewish People" will survive, much like the "Jewish People" survived after every tragedy we have suffered throughout the ages. But that would be cold comfort to European Jewry of a century ago, right? Same here - Loss or Destruction of the State of Israel is something to be avoided, not to be shrugged off with "eh, worse things have happened to the Jewish People."

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  4. Allow constitutional change ensuring enforcement of secular education and removing all religious restrictions and bylaws, inc. shabbat transport, haredi draft etc. Then you will see a reverse scenario, namely the massive brain drain of secular Israelis leaving the country. of course none of this will happen as the country's judiciary and democratic institutions are under assault by a government following the path of erdoganization of IL society in cahoots with religious extremists, messianists and annexationists.

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  5. Hilarious. The DRAMA. But the rest is beyond sad. Or just completely berserk. Wow. Just wow.

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  6. Here is what I see in this article and the comments:-

    1. Charedim are a greater threat than Arab terrorists who fire rockets indiscriminately. It didn't go that far as to say that they are more evil, thank Heaven for that.

    2. A 'practical' idea is to persuade Lakewood to move en masse to Israel. Because American Bnei Torah are really good at changing over societies. Moster just didn't think of this.

    3. Shabbos transport will persuade Charedim to receive a secular education. Because nothing persuades people like attacking them in their faces.

    If I wouldn't be Jewish, I would have a good belly laugh at this. Or, as they say in Yiddish 'ven der naar iz nisht meins, volt ich oich gelacht'.

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    1. Moster was focusing on the chassidim not the Yeshivish.

      Basic social dynamics suggests if many chareidi do something it slowly trickels and becomes acceptable. Just consider the fact that just about every single person in Lakewood now owns a smartphone....

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  7. Where does it say 75% dropout rate in the article? I think I saw a 76% for men and 53% for women.

    The usual YA

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    1. NS is talking about the men's programs. i don't think that there is a meaningful difference between 75% and 76%. maybe the real number is 75.5%, and it just depends on how you choose to round it off.

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    2. Assuming women and men are 50% each of the Chareidi population in Israel, assuming even any rounding for fractions the average drop out rate according to the paper would then be closer to 60% then 70%. It would imply that roughly for everyone staying there's one dropping out.

      The usual YA

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  8. "But roughly half of Israel’s children (not just the ultra-Orthodox) are receiving a third-world education, and they belong to the fastest growing population streams."

    Who are the (non-ultra-Orthodox) children who are receiving a third-world education?

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    1. This is the real money question.

      This is really not the fault of RNS - the original artical that he plucked the quote from said that. RNS provided the link above to the Jerusalem Post article.

      The JP article also says that 19% of Israeli children ages 0-14 today are ultra orthodox. Assuming (strictly for argument’s sake) that all of them are receiving a “third-world education”, who are the other 30% of Israeli children also receiving such a “third-world education”??? And whose fault is that? How does that get corrected? If it’s true, it means that even if the Ultra Orthodox were not in the equation, more than 1/3 of all Israeli children are receiving a “third-world education” (37% of the 81% of non-ultra-Orthodox Israeli children is the same as 30% of all Israeli children)

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  9. Ephraim,
    your cynicism leads you to make foolish errors on several accounts.
    1. there is no scamming going on. everyone (the institution, the students, and the outside funders) understands the rules of the game upfront. they have obviously decided that the results make their participation worthwhile.
    2. no one is being enticed with "promises of non-destitution". firstly because true destitution is very rare in the charedi world, second, because this was a decision made by the leaders of the charedi world (primarily rav shtienman zt"l, and those who follow in his way) that there should be multiple lifestyles available to charedi families, each according to their madrega. the need for academic programs suitable for yerie shamayim is a central element in this world view.
    3. the vast majority of those who drop out, do so in the first year. they come to experiment with academic studies, realize that it is not for them, and leave. once one gets beyond the first year (which is often primarily made up of remedial studies, at least in the men's programs) retention rates are not that much lower than secular universities.

    as to who is funding them, it varies from program to program. overall it is a mix of student tuition, gov't subsidies, and philanthropic donors.

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    1. "everyone understands the rules of the game upfront"
      Really? Prove it. Do these institutions really publicize their failure rates to prospective students & donors with a straightforward statement: "Our program has a 25% success rate?"
      "firstly because true destitution is very rare in the charedi world"
      Not from what I read in Kupat Ha'ir copy. But I cheerfully withdraw the hyperbole- change it to "promises of non-grinding poverty".

      "the vast majority of those who drop out, do so in the first year. they come to experiment with academic studies, realize that it is not for them, and leave. "
      So it's ethically fine to take a year's tuition from poor students & donors? And to waste a year's time?

      "primarily rav shtienman"
      Did RAYLS actually formally advise these institution to accept students they know will likely fail- to refrain from a policy of entrance exams that would weed out certain failures? Or was Rav Shteinmann's approval general in nature and the implementation details left to the schools?



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    2. There is an organization in Jerusalem, Kivun (www.kivun.org.il), which offers courses and job placement for Charedi men and women, in environments that are suitable. When they succeed in placing someone in a job, they get money, the charedi person has a job, and the company gets incentive money from the government as well. Everyone wins.

      I have a graduate degree, from a respected university, but have gone through hell trying to find steady employment in Israel. For years, the most I could get was contract technical writing projects or translation, which would provide income for a few months. Kivun placed me in a full-time position, where I have been working for over three years now!

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  10. The IDF (and Israel's economy) has been blossoming with far less than 100% capacity and cooperation of the society since the beginning of the state. Israel's defense (and economy) budget has been for years, a budget for a nation of 30 million that has been funded by a nation of 4 million ( or 5).

    The demographic rise of the haredim (even if it is to 50% or more!!) does not come at the expense of the chiloni and dati-leumi numbers: both hiloni and dati leumi are procreating at greater than replacement numbers. This means that even though the haredim might reach 50%, this includes natural growth of their population along with the natural growth of hiloni and dati-leumi populations as well. Meaning, even if no haredim join the army or workforce, the current pool of Israelis who do work and fight (hilonim and dati-leumi) will not shrink their absolute numbers, but will increase them. So the army and economy will still be funded adequately, because the defense budget and size of army necessary does not increase proportionally with the size of the population. If 4-5 million can support the army and economy today, 4-5 million will be able to do so in the future as well.

    Bottom line, the amount of money (and population to provide that money) is not proportional to the size of the population. Even if not one haredi goes to work, the number of payers into the army and economy (hiloni and dati-leumi) is still increasing far more than in other first-world countries, and that will make the budgetary burden on these sectors of society ease over the next years, not increase.

    The foregoing ignores healthy trends in Haredi society of increased education and going to work. It may not be fast enough for some of us, but it won't cause us to lose our military edge, as far as I can see.

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    1. What you're saying is true for the military budget alone- but only in the future when there will be no military need for (near) universal conscription. The broader economic problems would still remain.

      "So the army and economy will still be funded adequately"
      Wrong. The army would be funded, but not the economy. Because the charedi community is currently a welfare case that is a net loss for the general economy.

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  11. Here's something that happened to me erev shabbos.

    One of the neighbour's kids comes to borrow our Dyson hoover and brings it back 40 minutes later. My wife picks it up to hoover the flat and water starts dripping from it. She unscrews the pipe and about 3 litres of black, filthy smelling liquid pours out. The neighbour refuses to come over and look because she's 'busy'. After 40 minutes she comes over and claims that in Israel everyone hoovers up water. We say that (a) there is clearly nowhere for water to go in this hoover and (b) we had explicitly told them before never to get it wet after a similar, albeit less serious, incident. She says they can't be expected to remember as far back as Pesah and it's our job to list all the possible retarded things you might do with a hoover each time before lending it to them. She says her deadbeat husband is really good at fixing things and refuses to pay for a technician because it's a waste of money. It goes without saying that their six (!) kids have no shortage of money to buy cannabis. But what can I do? If I call the police, they'll laugh. If I want to go to the small claims court it will end up costing me the same. If I try to make a thing of it, I might end up having the police called on me myself.

    After living for only 4 years in EY I have dozens of such stories of trying to interact with sub 80 IQ uncivilized people who leave nappies in the corridoor and screw everything up even when they are not trying (which often they are). Everyone I know has the same stories about people pooing in public swimming pools and what not. In terms of threats to the sustainability of Israel as an advanced, prosperous country Haredim are nowhere near the top of the list.


    (P.S. military expenditure is a total red herring anyway. We conquered Sinai, the West Bank, and Gaza in six days with a fraction of our current budget. The vast majority of Israeli 'defense' spending goes on propping up the Oslo Death Process and is not only unnecessary but actively harmful to the welfare of the country).

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    1. You didn't make clear, your neighbors are not haredi? Who are they? Who is doing this stuff you describe?

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  12. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Which threat is scarier? Neither of the above! I'm horrified that your concern for future Israeli society based on the findings of this article, justified as it may be, is not matched and outweighed by the study's findings that 41% of kids raised as Religious Zionists don't remain religious as adults. You raise your kids in that misgeret...
    To some extent I identify ideologically with some of their hashkafot, but I wouldn't dare send my kids to such schools, encourage them to primarily socialize with such kids, or raise them in such in environment if there was a 41% dropout rate from commitment to Torah and Mitzvot! The dog that didn't bark here says a lot. I eagerly wait your response to this.

    Shmooli

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  13. Reportedly less than 50% of U.S. college students finish college. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1940 less than 50% of those 25 and over finished high school. According to the Bureau in 2017 90% of those 25 and over finished high school.

    The usual YA

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    1. In NYC, HS dropout rate is about 50% for the past few decades. And Regents diplomas are not required, meaning graduation is principal's decision.

      (Charter schools and non inner city schools are much higher.)

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  14. The article quoted in this post equates level of education with level of income. Patently absurd. Good business acumen and seeing opportunities can make you very wealthy without any major education. Especially in the Jewish world were good connections are much more valuable than business degrees.

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