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Brick by Brick

Aharon Granot

It might take a bit of getting used to — peyos and beards underneath the hard hats on Israeli building sites. But as more chareidim seek honorable work without the compromises that often come along with a modern office setting, construction has become a logical, if not a novel option. The pay is good, the environment is clean, and they get to build Eretz Yisrael.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The air is noisy with drilling jackhammers kicking up clouds of dust, while crane operators in hard hats are busy transferring platforms of building materials to the base of the construction site. Soon these skeletal structures will turn into a neighborhood of high-rise apartments in the central Israeli town of Rosh Ha’ayin, but the new residents will have no idea that their walls were erected by a Sanzer chassid named Dovid who lives in Jerusalem’s chareidi Givat Moshe neighborhood. A visitor to the construction site would likely be taken by surprise at the sight of the Tidhar construction company’s staff: Under the safety helmets are big black yarmulkes, beards, and dangling peyos. And instead of hearing shouts of guttural street Arabic among the workers and wondering if any thoughts of terror are buzzing around beneath their helmets, the visitor might hear their amused voices wishing him “a gut morgen” in Yiddish, these workers’ preferred language of conversation. The new cadre of construction workers has taken advantage of a NIS 90 million government program to train Israelis for construction work, an opportunity that has already drawn several hundred chareidi men. The program was set up as a means of getting more Israeli citizens to work in a field that had become dependent on Palestinians and foreign workers. And it also reflects the steady changes to an industry that progressively requires more skills and high tech. Anyone who’s seen how drywall is put up or how a staircase is erected today knows that the Israeli building industry has taken a quantum leap from the days when putting up a house meant Arab laborers hand-mixing cement in a discarded bathtub. 

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