Should Israeli Scientists Be More Revered Than Religious Scholars?

What yeshiva student, even a hesder yeshiva student, wouldn't want to feel as if his religious studies are just as important and appreciated as the physics studied by Dan Shechtman?

In an enlightening talk with Lady Globes last week, Adina Bar-Shalom, the daughter of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, rebuffed the interviewer's remark that the ultra-Orthodox community has earned the labels of "moochers" and "parasites."

"I don't accept that," Bar-Shalom replied, adding that the same way the state supports scientists, so too should it support Haredim who are learning.

"Just look at the excitement over Prof. Dan Shechtman's winning a Nobel Prize," she said. "There are many researchers and only one Shechtman; but even so, all scientists are living at the state's expense and getting their salaries from the state."

Indeed, it really is time for the state to reexamine its relationship with the scientists living at its expense.

Firstly, let's stop allowing hundreds of thousands of scientists to continue receiving free science education from early childhood until adulthood. Why does the Education Ministry fund a special stream of education for scientists, starting from kindergarten? Who decided that children of scientists will for sure be scientists, anyway? Maybe some of these boys and girls are interested in studying something else? Yes, I'm talking to you, Mr. Shechtman.

But scientists don't only get education; they even get their own cities. Maybe we should stop all the plotting that enables the construction of entire cities just for scientists, in which they can do their science while bending all the laws that guarantee the right of anyone to live where they choose, and where the bus companies allow the male scientists to seat the female ones at the back of the buses.

Oh, and why do scientists need their own courts to decide whether to allow marriages between scientists in the same fields, as well as marriages of non-scientists who have nothing to do with them?

Enough! Bar-Shalom is right. It's time for hundreds of thousands of scientists to stop living at the expense of the state, no matter how many scientist parties there are, whether or not they are in the coalition, and no matter how many scientists are in the Knesset. Why do scientists have such a wide representation in the Knesset? Does the state owe them anything?

Why do we need scientists on the board of the Second Television and Radio Authority? What about the snacks served at meetings: Why do we need special scientist-food and cookies under the supervision of biologists?

Maybe its time to shut down the scientist councils, which can be found all over the country, and whose large budgets enable those who have finished learning in the scientists' educational system to work in scientific institutions that promote their schools of thought. And what about those scientists who can't find their place in the scientist councils?

Adina Bar-Shalom is correct. What yeshiva student, even a hesder yeshiva student, wouldn't want to feel as if his religious studies are just as important and appreciated as the physics studied by Dan Shechtman?

From a certain perspective, one could argue that maintaining a society of learners is crucial to Judaism (as opposed to sustaining the Bible departments at the universities, whose death throes don't particular disturb the rabbinical establishment ), or even to Israel's security (since rabbis already top chiefs of staff as motivators ). There are also no few yeshiva students who are poverty-stricken.

But one cannot use the term "living at the expense of the state" to create an insipid analogy, which is manipulative and one-sided and doesn't hold up to any measure of scrutiny.

After all, Adina Bar-Shalom doesn't really believe that religious studies are similar to any other type of study. She just wants the honor and prestige that are assigned those other types of study.

I hope all the hundreds of thousands of innocent scientists whose science is their livelihood will forgive me.

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