The growing demand for housing in Israel’s rapidly expanding ultra-Orthodox community has led to a paradox, according to the Times of Israel: the population of the two largest settlements in the West Bank is almost all Hasidic even though they do not have much nationalist zeal.
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, ultra-Orthodox Jews make up 30% of the 400,000 Israelis living in the West Bank, spread across eight settlement cities. Modiin Ilit, near Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut, is the largest settlement city with 65,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews. In Beitar Ilit, near Bethlehem, 50,000 residents are ultra-Orthodox — and nearly two-thirds are under 18 years old.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews were initially opposed to settling the West Bank. But overcrowding in Jerusalem and in Orthodox sections of the Tel Aviv metro area have made settlement an easy choice for many.
“What may have started as a method to solve the housing crisis in Haredi communities has also become an opportunity for them to connect with their heritage by living on land where 80% of the Bible took place,” said Shilo Adler, the Director General of Yesha, an umbrella group of municipal councils in the West Bank.