Israel's Ultra-Orthodox Inch Toward Modern Lifestyle, Driven by Consumer Culture

More Join Army and Work — Women Run for Office

Change Is Coming: An ultra-Orthodox man walks past discarded election pamphlets in Jerusalem. A small but growing number of Haredi Jews are seeking to enter modern life by getting jobs and even joining the military. Some women are even running for offfice.
getty images
Change Is Coming: An ultra-Orthodox man walks past discarded election pamphlets in Jerusalem. A small but growing number of Haredi Jews are seeking to enter modern life by getting jobs and even joining the military. Some women are even running for offfice.

By Reuters

Published October 24, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

Eighteen-year-old Iluz had been on the traditional Haredi track, studying Torah for about 10 hours a day. But he felt he was unsuited for the intensive scholarly regimen and though dropping out of a yeshiva, or seminary, is very much frowned upon, he decided to leave.

Religious scholars are revered in Haredi culture, which sees the study of Torah and Talmud as a sacred task, meant to keep alive centuries of knowledge and tradition almost wiped out in the Holocaust.

Iluz now studies computer programming at a Jerusalem college, and when he enlists he hopes to serve in one of the military’s computer units.

“I want to prepare myself for a profession now, to be able to support my family,” he said. “There is no reason for my community to see me in a lesser light, I am not doing less with my life than a seminary student.”

Iluz is not alone. The number of Haredim getting job training at specialised centres and studying at academic institutes has been steadily rising, giving graduates a better chance of finding a job and increasing their earning power.

According to Israel’s Council for Higher Education, some 7,000 Haredim were engaged in academic studies in 2012, up from 5,600 students in 2010, with business administration, law and social sciences drawing the majority.

The number is projected to rise further in 2013.

Army statistics show the number of Haredim in military service growing steadily over the past few years. In 2008 there were 387 Haredi soldiers. To date there are about 3,500, nearly 10 times as many, ultra-Orthodox soldiers.

The number of Haredim who enter national service in civil capacities has also risen between 2010-2012, according to Israel’s Administration for National-Civic Service.

Facing public pressure, the government has been grappling for months with the task of writing a new military draft bill that would slash the seminary student exemptions. The law is expected to be brought to parliament in the coming months.

Haredim who choose to enter military or civic service often do so with the knowledge it will eventually boost their chances of earning a decent salary.

In May, an Economy Ministry report found that found 70 percent of Haredim who served in the army had found jobs after completing service. By contrast, only 45 percent of all Haredi men are employed, according to the Central Bank of Israel.

Hayim is a 23-year-old Haredi man whose wife is a social worker. He studies computer programming in the evenings and during the day does computer work at a government office as part of his national civic service.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.