Last night, Israel’s Finance Minister, Yair Lapid, came out with a budget proposal which includes cuts that will have a devastating effect on the struggling middle class.
To begin with, Lapid presented himself as a middle class protector. Now he finds himself under fire, as not only the chareidim are calling his cuts “decrees.”
A controversial online posting, which appeared a few weeks ago, aroused considerable media attention in Israel. Finance Minister Yair Lapid wrote that his Finance Ministry was seeking ways to help Mrs. Ricki Cohen of Hadera, a mother of three who travels abroad every two years, make ends meet. “We are talking about balancing the budget, but our job is not to balance spreadsheets. Our job is to help Mrs. Cohen,” he wrote. “Mrs. Cohen is 37 years old, she is a high-school teacher and her husband works in high-tech. Both of them are salaried employees who, together, earn just over 20,000 shekels ($5,500) per month. It is thanks to people like Mrs. Cohen that this country exists. She represents the middle class. It is for her that I decided to become finance minister.” Mr. Lapid expressed his concern that Mrs. Cohen of Hadera will be unable to purchase an apartment for her children.
Among those who responded to Lapid’s statement was a real Mrs. Riki Cohen of Hadera, who unlike Lapid’s fictitious character, is a retired secretary who lives off her pension. “What is he talking about? There are real poor families out there. There are people whose situation is much worse than Lapid’s.”
Lapid’s analysis was welcomed with very sharp criticism. As has been his usual practice, he immediately directed his fire towards the chareidim.
In a recent address in the Knesset he told the chareidi MK, “Please remember that children are first and foremost the responsibility of their parents, So when you have children, the responsibility falls primarily on you.”
What Lapid said reflects what is being heard again and again from all of the secular segments of Israeli society. “The chareidim don’t work. They don’t pay taxes. They live at our expense.”
Mr. Lapid, who is so concerned about Riki Cohen of Hadera, has no interest to know about the existence of Rivka Cohen of Bnei Brak.
Rivka Cohen is just one woman out of thousands who are the breadwinners of their family. For a change, she is not a teacher. She works long hours in the high-tech industry. If a child isn’t feeling well and stays home from school or needs to be taken to the doctor, it’s her husband who takes off from Kollel to take care of them. As one Rosh HaKollel told Hamodia, “She makes it possible for him to learn, but in many cases he makes it possible for her to work.”
Ironically, Rivka is in fact a perfect case in point to advocate the power of the feminists. But she does not see herself as such, and the secular society refuses to acknowledge her contribution to the Israeli economy. Rivka actually holds a job quite similar to Mr. Cohen’s of Hadera, but because she is a woman she earns 30 percent less than he does. Nobody in Lapid’s party, nor anyone in the feminist movement is trying to correct this unfair practice.
Before Mr. Lapid lashes out at the chareidim, he should better understand that his provocative posts on social media and his empty rhetoric will not be able to cover up for him indefinitely.