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!
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • 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.