Finance Minister Yair Lapid said Wednesday that hareidim are “industrious and intelligent workers” and called on business owners to employ them. He spoke at the Fifth Conference for Small and Medium-sized Businesses (SMB).
The minister, who leads the secularist Yesh Atid party, began his address by referring to the financial worries the business owners must live with. “My wife's parents have a small business,” he related. “They have a store. And in the last 25 years I have learned, through them, what the life of a small business owner is like. I learned that the most central element in the life of a small business owner is anxiety.
"Small business owners are always worried. That is the big difference, the absolute one, between an independent business owner and a salaried employee,” Lapid said. “Because a salaried employee, even if he is the most dedicated worker in the firm, even if he stays at the workplace until 9 p.m. of his own initiative, once he goes down to the parking lot, he leaves it behind him.”
The state has turned into something that worries the small businesses instead of helping them, said the journalist-turned-finance minister. “A sample survey carried out between January 2012 and June 2013 showed that 67% of the payments that the state paid its suppliers were carried out late. Many of these suppliers are small businesses that cannot really do anything about this. They will not sue, because it is expensive and complicated, and they will not go work with another client, because there is no 'spare' country here that they can do business with.”
Lapid called the phenomenon unfair. “There is no justification for small suppliers, which are struggling for daily survival anyway in a difficult economic reality, to have to give the state, which is the main buyer in the market, interest-free loans from their private money.”
"Hire hareidim, they're looking for work now"
Lapid, who has been the target of hareidi anger due to legislation and comments that have painted him as a fierce detractor of their way of life, also urged employers to hire hareidim.
"The state is facing a great challenge these days and it needs your assistance,” he told his audience. “The request is a simple one: hire hareidim. Employ them. Following the legislation of the Equal Burden Law, tens of thousands of hareidim are now looking for work.
"Take them,” he requested. “I know it's not simple. People ask themselves questions: how do we get by with the kashrut? What do we do if a woman in a spaghetti-strap top enters my business? How do we create a work environment in which we all get along together? I am not saying for one moment that all of these have simple answers, but it is completely possible.”
Lapid insisted that there are already tens of thousands of businesses that employ hareidim, which have found solutions to problems like these. “The important point is that if we, as a human society, do not respond to the challenge of integrating hareidim into the work market, if we only demand that they enlist to the military and work, without enlisting ourselves to help them integrate into Israeli society, we have done nothing.”
"Anyone who made this effort,” the minister added, “ultimately benefited from it. Because they are industrious workers, and intelligent, and they learn fast, and they will know how to show you gratitude for giving them a chance.”