Ultra-Orthodox and Affirmative Action: Justice and not Charity

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For the ultra-Orthodox sector and for us as a society, justice is not charity.


Flash 90

As a result of a recent government decision, members of the ultra-Orthodox community who wish to do so will now be able to integrate more easily into the civil service in various positions.

The decision states that the ultra-Orthodox population is one of the special populations entitled to affirmative action and appropriate representation in the civil service.

This decision is based on measurable goals according to which approximately 7% of all employees hired in the civil service will be from the ultra-Orthodox sector.

This step should create positive momentum for increasing the integration of ultra-Orthodox women and men in the civil service in a range of managerial positions that require academic training. In the near future, it will be possible to diversify service providers in the Israeli public administration and to help increase the quality of public service while at the same time reinforcing the integration of this unique population into the labor market.

This step is most welcome and constitutes another vital milestone in reducing the social and economic gaps between the ultra-Orthodox community and the general public in the labor market, academia, the army and other arenas in Israel, all the more so since the ultra-Orthodox currently constitute less than 1.5% of the managers and employees at the managerial level in the civil service.

As a result of this decision, however, concerns have been raised regarding ultra-Orthodox men and women’s lack of qualifications for civil service positions due to their lack of basic education and the subsequent need to “bend” the criteria for them. This would be a serious mistake; it would not be appropriate from either a public or a professional perspective to lower the level of the civil service in any of its branches. Thanks, however, to great efforts that have been made in recent years leading to significant changes in some parts of the ultra-Orthodox community, there is no real need for this.

In the previous academic year there were approximately 1,200 ultra-Orthodox students earning advanced degrees (graduate and above), and of about 10,000 ultra-Orthodox graduates, a considerable proportion have the academic training required for relevant fields in the civil service with degrees in law, business administration, medical professions and social sciences. Not only will the integration of the ultra-Orthodox in the civil service not lower its quality but it can be expected that the social and cultural uniqueness of ultra-Orthodox civil servants will enrich, improve and diversify the public decision-making mechanism. This new and unique personnel for the Israeli public administration is expected to encourage innovative thinking and new perceptive.

The integration of the ultra-Orthodox into quality and meaningful positions in the public service must thus be implemented by increasing the knowledge, experience and training of those interested in being part of the public service and not by lowering the conditions of entry. Such a move would not only harm the civil service but would also hinder the long-term goal of integrating members of the ultra-Orthodox community into the public sector in particular and the employment market in general.

Employees who are not suited to their jobs will not succeed in integrating into senior positions and will not be able to significantly affect the future of the civil service. Without success stories, it will not be possible to recruit additional ultra-Orthodox candidates to this sector. Therefore, affirmative action for ultra-Orthodox integration in the civil service must be carried out fairly, by empowering and improving the ultra-Orthodox human capital through new policy in the education system, both schools and universities, and the military and appropriate conditions accepted by the Civil Service Commission.

In this way it will be possible to strengthen the service of the state as a whole and public officials in the ultra-Orthodox sector in particular.

For the ultra-Orthodox sector and for us as a society, justice is not charity.

The article was published in the Jerusalem Post.