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Some Israelis Question Benefits for Ultra-Religious

 Ultra-Orthodox men and boys at a synagogue in Jerusalem this month. More than 60 percent of ultra-Orthodox men do not work.

JERUSALEM — Chaim Amsellem was certainly not the first Parliament member to suggest that most ultra-Orthodox men should work rather than receive welfare subsidies for full-time Torah study. But when he did so last month, the nation took notice: He is a rabbi, ultra-Orthodox himself, whose outspokenness ignited a fresh, and fierce, debate about the rapid growth of the ultra-religious in Israel.

Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

In Jerusalem, ultra-Orthodox Jews protested a Supreme Court order against ethnic segregation in their schools in June.

“Torah is the most important thing in the world,” Rabbi Amsellem said in an interview. But now more than 60 percent of ultra-Orthodox men in Israel do not work, compared with 15 percent in the general population, and he argued that full-time, state-financed study should be reserved for great scholars destined to become rabbis or religious judges.

“Those who are not that way inclined,” he said, “should go out and earn a living.”

In reaction, he was ousted from his own ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, whose leaders vilified him with such venom that he was assigned a bodyguard. The party newspaper printed a special supplement describing Rabbi Amsellem as “Amalek,” the biblical embodiment of all evil.

To read the rest of the article, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/29/world/middleeast/29israel.html?src=ISMR_AP_LO_MST_FB

Photo Credits:Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

Article By ISABEL KERSHNER Published: December 28, 2010


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