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!
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • 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.