Ending Single-Sex Colleges in Israel Would Strangle the Integration of the Ultra-Orthodox

A group of Israeli professors has petitioned the country’s Supreme Court to end government funding for single-sex colleges catering to ḥaredi students. Meanwhile, ultra-Orthodox parties have put forth legislation to protect these colleges. Thanks in no small part to such institutions, there has been a steep rise in the number of ḥaredi men and women in Israel obtaining secular higher education and joining the workforce, a trend that brings significant benefits to both the ḥaredi community and Israeli society as a whole. David M. Weinberg writes:

Over the past seven years, the Israeli government wisely has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in higher-education opportunities for ḥaredi men and women—and this is working. The number of ḥaredi students in college has jumped by more than 80 percent over this period, to 11,000 each year. And the number of ḥaredi men in the workforce has risen from 40 to 50 percent over the past decade. . . . In parallel, there seems to be an increasing majority sentiment within Israeli ḥaredi society that embraces higher education and superior employment. Surveys suggest that more than 80 percent of ḥaredi parents want their high schools to teach secular subjects alongside religious ones. . . .

It is indisputable that the overwhelming majority of Ḥaredim will not go to study in mixed-sex classrooms and mixed-sex campuses. That is too far a stretch for the very conservative and still quite insular ḥaredi society, which has a hard enough time engaging in secular studies in the first place. Thus, the militant axing of separate-sex programs would lead to the exclusion of most ḥaredi men and women from institutions of higher studies. This would kill the slow but measurable and exciting movement of Ḥaredim into the workforce that is crucial for Israel’s economy and society. . . .

I strongly suspect that the aggressive opposition to single-sex study programs for ḥaredi students stems from a deeper, darker, illiberal place. The professors and journalists behind this are, I think, frightened by the prospect of ḥaredi integration into Israeli life and the economy. Of course, this is what they have demanded for decades—that the ḥaredi community get educated and go to work (and serve in the military)—but now that it is beginning to happen, they have changed their minds.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli society, Israeli Supreme Court, Ultra-Orthodox

Hizballah Is in Venezuela to Stay

Feb. 21 2019

In a recent interview, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the presence of Hizballah cells in Venezuela as further evidence of the growing unrest in that country. The Iran-backed group has operated in Venezuela for years, engaging in narcotics trafficking and money laundering to fund its activities in the Middle East, and likely using the country as a base for planning terrorist attacks. If Juan Guaido, now Venezuela’s internationally recognized leader, is able to gain control of the government, he will probably seek to alter this situation. But, writes Colin Clarke, his options may be limited.

A government led by Guaido would almost certainly be more active in opposing Hizballah’s presence on Venezuelan soil, not just nominally but in more aggressively seeking to curtail the group’s criminal network and, by extension, the influence of Iran. As part of a quid pro quo for its support, Washington would likely seek to lean on Guaido to crack down on Iran-linked activities throughout the region.

But there is a major difference between will and capability. . . . Hizballah is backed by a regime in Tehran that provides it with upward of $700 million annually, according to some estimates. Venezuela serves as Iran’s entry point into Latin America, a foothold the Iranians are unlikely to cede without putting up a fight. Moreover, Russia retains a vested interest in propping up [the incumbent] Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and keeping him in power, given the longstanding relationship between the two countries. . . . Further, after cooperating closely in Syria, Hizballah is now a known quantity to the Kremlin and an organization that President Vladimir Putin could view as an asset that, at the very least, will not interfere with Russia’s designs to extend its influence in the Western hemisphere.

If the Maduro regime is ultimately ousted from power, that will likely have a negative impact on Hizballah in Venezuela. . . . Yet, on balance, Hizballah has deep roots in Venezuela, and completely expelling the group—no matter how high a priority for the Trump administration—remains unlikely. The best-case scenario for Washington could be an ascendant Guaido administration that agrees to combat Hizballah’s influence—if the new government is willing to accept a U.S. presence in the country to begin training Venezuelan forces in the skills necessary to counter terrorism and transnational criminal networks with strong ties to Venezuelan society. But that scenario, of course, is dependent on the United States offering such assistance in the first place.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Mike Pompeo, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, Venezuela