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Trade Talks

Aryeh Ehrlich and Yaakov Epstein

Few topics can set off verbal fireworks between chareidim and Israeli officials like expanding Orthodox involvement in the work force. But a Mishpacha-sponsored forum at the Bank of Israel led by the bank’s governor, Stanley Fischer, proved that difficult issues can be discussed and debated in a spirit of respect, cooperation, and a desire for mutual benefit.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Half-way through the three-hour forum, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer asked for a break in the proceedings. After 90 minutes of numbers, statistics, graphs, and discussion about chareidi employment and the economy, Fischer wanted to address a deeper, decidedly noneconomic issue.

“First of all, I want to thank you all for giving us the opportunity to host you,” said Fischer. “There's an issue I want to address. We all know there are tensions between the chareidi community and other sectors [in Israel]. The question about the long-term trend in those relations is always flashing in our minds.  

“But I want to say something else: Without the chareidim, without the people who for the past 2,000, 3,000 years, faithfully kept our religion -- none of us would be here today. Everyone understands this, everyone must understand it. Therefore, we have tremendous respect for you. Why are we here? Thanks to you. Some people blame you for the fact that we're here today …

“Let me tell you a story: Not long ago, a friend of mine returned from a visit to Norway. He told me that the trip gave him some understanding about why Judaism began in the Holy Land. 'In Norway, you look around at the view and you say wow! Then you come back to Israel and you ask yourself: What are we doing here, why are we here? Because of Judaism. We started to think about the answer to that question. So there you have it: We're Jews, and we're here.

“Therefore I say: Everybody knows we've got to solve Israel's problems, and I think we've made a very good start. I see a lot of good will around this table. The government must help the chareidim, but it is also important for the chareidi sector to contribute to the economy. You've got brainpower and abilities to contribute, your human capital, and secular Israelis must respect our differences.”


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