Ultra-Orthodox
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks past a street poster in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighbourhood(Reuters)

A leading member of Israel's Knesset has warned the government needs to work with, and incentivise, the private sector to help lift the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community out of poverty and unemployment.

Speaking to IBTimes UK, Erel Margalit, a member of the Labor Party opposition, said: "In order for this to be a bigger numbers game then it needs to be a bigger public-private partnership and the country needs to plan."

Accommodating the Haredim in workplaces "shouldn't be looked at as a cost, but rather as a multi-year investment because after three or four years each one of these people pay themselves back in a big way," Margalit added.

The Haredi Conundrum

Known as the Haredim (a Hebrew term meaning "those who tremble before God,") the community accounts for 10% of Israel's eight million population.

Men of working age within the ultra-Orthodox community are largely unemployed because they believe they have a right to devote themselves full time to the tradition of studying holy scriptures for hours each day.

As a result, many rely on state handouts and welfare, creating tension with the secular dimension of Israeli society, leading to accusations that the Haredim are parasitical.

The question of how to assimilate the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community into the economy has troubled Israeli policymakers for decades. The growing percentage of economically inactive adults now threatens Israel's growth and prosperity.

According to latest available statistics from a 2011 Bank of Israel report, less than half of Haredi males between the ages of 25-64 are in employment, compared with 78% for Jewish Israeli men.

Haredi men usually rely on donations, state benefits and their wives' pay packets.

For women in the same age bracket, 61% are employed, compared with 66% of all Jewish women, according to the same report.

Tech Sector to Save the Day?

Margalit believes Israel's tech-sector is especially well placed to absorb more Haredim due to its history of working with a range of different cultures.

"The high tech industry in Israel has always been sensitive to different cultures because when we build a company, we always build a mini multinational. We work with the UK or the US or the French or the Chinese and so this was just yet another culture to absorb."

Whether it's implementing kosher internet, segregating office spaces or showing flexibility over working hours so that mothers can also raise a family, employers must take extra steps when employing Haredis.

While debate rages over who should provide the funding for these short-term costs, Margalit told IBTimes UK the public and private sector needed to work together to make the long-term investment.

"More needs to be done. The government needs to invest in social projects like this, not in a small way... It needs a bigger public investment so that the private sector can reciprocate," he added.