Ultra-religious schools test Israel's high-tech future

Thu Dec 22, 2011 10:15am EST
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By Maayan Lubell

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - There are no computers at Maoz Hatorah, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish boys school on the outskirts of Israel's bustling high-tech commercial hub, Tel Aviv.

In the classrooms, English, mathematics and science lessons are kept to a minimum.

"If we devote our time to secular studies there will be none left for faith," the headmaster said.

Most ultra-Orthodox Jewish boys receive little education in secular subjects up to age 14 and none afterwards. The bulk of the school day is instead focused on religious instruction, in preparation for a life devoted to the study of Torah (Jewish law) that many will pursue as adult men.

Some in Israel say this leaves graduates no chance to get a job or integrate into modern society.

Critics are concerned the poor education of the state's fastest-growing population, known in Hebrew as "haredim" or "those in awe," threatens Israel's thriving economy and cutting-edge research and innovation.

"There are two States of Israel in one," said economist Dan Ben-David, head of the Taub Center for Social Policy Research.

"One is a state of high-tech, universities and medicine at the forefront of human knowledge. And then there are all the rest, who make up a huge and increasing part of Israel and who do not receive the skills or conditions to work in a modern economy."   Continued...

<p>A Rabbi gestures as he teaches pupils at Maoz Hatora ultra-Orthodox Jewish boys school in Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, December 20, 2011. REUTERS/Nir Elias</p>