Israeli minister calls haredim ‘parasites,” then apologizes

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s deputy finance minister called haredi Orthodox citizens "parasites" during a radio interview and immediately apologized for the comment.

Mickey Levy of the Yesh Atid Party said that the haredi Orthodox "should share in the burden, to integrate into the job market, stop being parasites drawing on the Israeli public’s resources," during an interview Wednesday on the Kol Barama haredi Orthodox radio station.

“I apologize for the word, I’m just saying that it’s not possible to live on the shoulders of the Israeli tax payer, of those who pay taxes, those who go to the army, those who serve the state. You are citizens with equal rights, so come be equal in obligations too,” Levy said after the radio host challenged him on his word choice.

The remarks came two days after Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid Party, criticized haredi Orthodox lawmakers for feeling entitled to sit in every government during his first speech in the Knesset, at the opening meeting of its summer session.

"There is such a thing as this in democracy: a government without the ultra-Orthodox. Israel is not listed in your name in the Land Registry and the Israeli government is not listed in your name in the land registry. We believe in the importance of your democratic voice from the opposition," Lapid said. 

Lapid told the haredi Orthodox lawmakers that parents, not the state, should support their children. "No child in the State of Israel should go hungry. The body that is responsible for supporting children is called their parents. When you bring a child into this world, you are the first who is responsible for them. To bring a child into this world is a heavy responsibility," Lapid said

"I am the person who has to solve the deficit that you created," he added.

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