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Monday, September 5, 2011     GET REAL

Report: Orthodox Jews overcoming bias from secular elites in Israeli defense sector

TEL AVIV — Israel's Orthodox Jewish minority has become an increasingly important component of the nation's defense industry.


Executives report increasing recruitment of Orthodox Jews in the defense industry, for decades a stronghold of the secular elite. They said observant Jews were coming from such diverse areas as the military and religious seminaries.

"The reality in which all study content — including the history of Hari-kari in Japan — is recognized in Israel as academic studies, and only higher Torah studies are not recognized is a disgrace which testifies that they really don't want us in the workplace," Israeli analyst Menachem Geshide said.

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The expanded presence of Orthodox Jews, said to comprise about 20 percent of the Jewish population, has included the Defense Ministry and defense contractors. At aerospace and defense conferences, groups of Orthodox Jews can be seen taking breaks for afternoon prayer.

Geshide recalled a 38-year-old hasidic father of five from the southern city of Ashdod. Nearly a decade earlier, the student, Akiva Moshe Lieberman, graduated a basic computer course at an Orthodox training center and was hired by Elta Systems, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries.

Lieberman was said to have received a "cool reception" by Elta supervisors and was told "We don't have a lot for you to do." He was eventually placed in a military-directed team assigned to trouble-shoot a new British computer program unable to operate with an unidentified military platform.

"All of the experts who attempted to synchronize the system wrung their hands in frustration," Geshide recalled in a column for Israel's Yediot Aharonot on Aug. 30. "My acquaintance dove into the depths of the problem, and after a few months succeeded where all of the experts failed."

Since then, Lieberman has won eight awards from Elta. Geshide cited another rabbinical graduate who soon became a millionaire through his acquired technical skills.

"Studying constitutes a means for sharpening one's mind and the ability to integrate into the workforce — regardless of whether these are Torah studies or studies in any other field — with the addition of complementary studies required for the job," Geshide said.

Over the last five years, the military has been training hundreds of Jewish seminary graduates for technology jobs, Middle East Newsline reported. Most of the Orthodox employees were working in all-male offices to conform with their religious beliefs.

Geshide said "many thousands" of Jewish seminary graduates were working in the defense industry and other hi-tech areas. He said the contribution of Orthodox Jews has been ignored by the secular elite, including the government and academia.

"Sometimes it seems to me that those concerned about a change are a small groups of politicians and academic whose concern is for afterwards, when they will have no one to kick around," Gehside said.

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