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Pew Research Center, Kelsey Jo Starr and David Masci, March 8 2018

Few communities, even small ones, are culturally or socially monolithic. That is the case with Israeli Jews: There are only about 6 million Jews living in Israel, but there are major religious, social and political chasms that divide Jews within the borders of this small nation.

A new Pew Research Center survey in 2014 finds that nearly all Israeli Jews self-identify with one of four subgroups:

Haredi (“ultra-Orthodox”),

Dati (“religious”),

Masorti (“traditional”)

and Hiloni (“secular”).

Beyond differences in religious belief and practice, these groups inhabit largely distinct social worlds characterized by their own lifestyles and politics. Following is a short profile of each of these four major religious groups, based on the ways Israeli Jews in the new survey describe themselves:

with 96% saying religion is very important in their lives, compared with 30% of all Israeli Jews. The word “Haredi” literally translates to “trembling” or “fearing God,” and most Haredim live their lives secluded from the rest of society. They have few close friends outside their own group, and they generally oppose intermarriage with other Jewish subgroups. Haredim tend to dress more conservatively, often including large black kippas and shtreimel or fedora hats for men and wigs or other head coverings for women. Haredi men are much more likely to attend religious educational institutions (yeshivas), which also has traditionally exempted them from the mandatory military requirements that other Israeli citizens face – something that has been a recent topic of controversy in Israeli politics. Fully 83% of Haredim favor keeping these exemptions, but less than half of all other Jewish subgroups agree. Haredim are more ambivalent about the state of Israel than other Jews in some ways, because some have long felt there should not have been the establishment of a formal Jewish state before the arrival of the Messiah. For example, Haredim are far less likely than other Israeli Jews to identify as Zionists.

About nine-in-ten of those surveyed from both groups say they are absolutely certain in their belief in God, and nearly all surveyed from either group say they do not travel by car, train or bus on the Sabbath, in accordance with Jewish law. However, Datiim – sometimes described as modern Orthodox Jews – are much more integrated in modern Jewish society. For instance, Datiim are more likely than Haredim to say they value career success and world travel. And Dati men are much more likely to serve in the Israeli military than Haredi men. Dati citizens also tend to be active in Israeli politics. A majority among Datiim describe themselves as part of the political right, and fully 71% agree that Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel, significantly more than any other Jewish group. They also are more likely than those in the other three groups to say building Jewish settlements in the West Bank helps Israel’s security.

They encompass a large middle ground between the two Orthodox groups and secular Jews. About half (51%) say religion is somewhat important in their lives, as opposed to very important (32%) or not too/not at all important (16%). While the three other Jewish groups often have strong opinions on one side or another on many issues relating to religion and public life, Masortim are generally much more divided. For example, while strong majorities of both Haredim and Datiim favor shutting down public transport during the Sabbath and over nine-in-ten Hilonim Jews oppose it, Masorti respondents are split on the issue (44% are in favor and 52% oppose). Masortim also are more likely to have Jewish friends from outside their group than the other three who, for the most part, socialize with members of their own community. According to surveys conducted over time, Masortim may be declining somewhat as a percentage of Israeli Jews.

Only 18% are absolutely certain in their belief in God, and 40% do not believe in God at all. Hilonim strongly favor the separation of religion from public life in Israel. For example, they overwhelmingly oppose shutting down public transportation during the Sabbath. Hilonim are the only Jewish group in Israel among whom a majority (59%) say their Israeli identity comes before their Jewish identity. At the same time, overwhelming shares of Hilonim say they are proud to be Jewish and believe a Jewish state is necessary for the survival of the Jewish people. Large majorities of Hilonim say they partake in Jewish rituals, but these include events that could be seen as cultural rather than religious, such as lighting Hanukkah candles or attending a Passover Seder. These views reflect the fact that 83% of Hilonim see being Jewish as a matter of ancestry and culture rather than as a matter of religion. Hilonim also overwhelmingly say all or most of their close friends are like them (secular), and they are also especially likely to marry within their own group.

Deep gulfs among Jews, as well as between Jews and Arabs, over political values and religion’s role in public life
Pew Research Center

Nearly 70 years after the establishment of the modern State of Israel, its Jewish population remains united behind the idea that Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people and a necessary refuge from rising anti-Semitism around the globe. But alongside these sources of unity, a major new survey by Pew Research Center also finds deep divisions in Israeli society – not only between Israeli Jews and the country’s Arab minority, but also among the religious subgroups that make up Israeli Jewry.

Nearly all Israeli Jews identify with one of four categories: Haredi (commonly translated as “ultra-Orthodox”), Dati (“religious”), Masorti (“traditional”) or Hiloni (“secular”).

Although they live in the same small country and share many traditions, highly religious and secular Jews inhabit largely separate social worlds, with relatively few close friends and little intermarriage outside their own groups. In fact, the survey finds that secular Jews in Israel are more uncomfortable with the notion that a child of theirs might someday marry an ultra-Orthodox Jew than they are with the prospect of their child marrying a Christian. (See Chapter 11 for more information.)

Moreover, these divisions are reflected in starkly contrasting positions on many public policy questions, including marriage, divorce, religious conversion, military conscription, gender segregation and public transportation. Overwhelmingly, Haredi and Dati Jews (both generally considered Orthodox) express the view that Israel’s government should promote religious beliefs and values, while secular Jews strongly favor separation of religion from government policy.

Most Jews across the religious spectrum agree in principle that Israel can be both a democracy and a Jewish state. But they are at odds about what should happen, in practice, if democratic decision-making collides with Jewish law (halakha). The vast majority of secular Jews say democratic principles should take precedence over religious law, while a similarly large share of ultra-Orthodox Jews say religious law should take priority.

Even more fundamentally, these groups disagree on what Jewish identity is mainly about: Most of the ultra-Orthodox say “being Jewish” is mainly a matter of religion, while secular Jews tend to say it is mainly a matter of ancestry and/or culture.

To be sure, Jewish identity in Israel is complex, spanning notions of religion, ethnicity, nationality and family. When asked, “What is your present religion, if any?” virtually all Israeli Jews say they are Jewish – and almost none say they have no religion – even though roughly half describe themselves as secular and one-in-five do not believe in God. For some, Jewish identity also is bound up with Israeli national pride. Most secular Jews in Israel say they see themselves as Israeli first and Jewish second, while most Orthodox Jews (Haredim and Datiim) say they see themselves as Jewish first and then Israeli.

The survey also looks at differences among Israeli Jews based on age, gender, education, ethnicity (Ashkenazi or Sephardi/Mizrahi) and other demographic factors. For example, Sephardim/Mizrahim are generally more religiously observant than Ashkenazim, and men are somewhat more likely than women to say halakha should take precedence over democratic principles. But in many respects, these demographic differences are dwarfed by the major gulfs seen among the four religious subgroups that make up Israeli Jewry.


Nearly all Israeli Jews interviewed in this survey self-identify as Haredi, Dati, Masorti or Hiloni. Here’s a brief description of what the survey shows about these categories.

Haredi (9% of Jews, 8% of all Israeli adults)

Though often translated as “ultra-Orthodox,” the Hebrew word Haredi literally means trembling or fearing God. The survey shows that Jews who describe themselves as Haredim are generally highly observant of Jewish religious law (halakha), and they express a strong preference for a state in which religious law would take precedence over democratic principles.

Dati (13% of Jews, 10% of all Israeli adults)

Literally meaning religious, Dati is sometimes translated as “modern Orthodox.” The survey finds that most Datiim are traditionally observant (keeping kosher and observing the Sabbath, for example). But they are more integrated into Israel’s overall society than Haredim, and Dati men are much more likely than Haredi men to have served in the Israeli military.

Masorti (29% of Jews, 23% of all Israeli adults)

Translated as “traditional,” Masortim occupy a broad middle ground between Orthodoxy and secularism, and they report widely varying levels of observance. In terms of their religious beliefs and practices, Masortim are the most diverse of these four self-defined types of Jews.

Hiloni (49% of Jews, 40% of all Israeli adults)

Though nominally “secular,” many Hilonim observe some religious traditions, such as keeping kosher and fasting on Yom Kippur. But they generally oppose the Orthodox rabbinate’s control over marriage and divorce, and they say democratic principles should take precedence over religious law.


The survey includes interviews with citizens and residents living within the boundaries of Israel, as defined in the 2008 census conducted by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Jews were surveyed in all six census districts (Jerusalem, North, Haifa, Center, Tel Aviv and South) and in the West Bank.

Jewish residents of all areas categorized as “Judea and Samaria” (West Bank) by the Central Bureau of Statistics were eligible to be included in the sample. Some examples of West Bank communities where interviews were conducted include Beit Arye, Elkana, Ma’ale Adumim and Giv’at Ze’ev.

All Arab citizens of Israel were eligible to be included in the sample. In addition, the survey includes interviews with Arab residents of East Jerusalem.

Arab residents of Gaza and the West Bank outside of East Jerusalem were not included in the survey. The Palestinian population has been previously surveyed by the Pew Research Center as recently as 2015.

For additional details about the sample, including a map of the areas covered, see survey methodology.


The 2015 Pew Research Center survey of Israel includes interviews with 3,789 Jews, 871 Muslims, 468 Christians and 439 Druze. An additional 34 respondents belong to other religions or are religiously unaffiliated.

Respondents are analyzed as part of these religious groups based on their response to the following question: “What is your present religion, if any? Are you Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze, another religion or no religion?”

All respondents classified as Muslims, Christians and Druze in this study identified themselves as such in response to the religious identity question. The vast majority of Jews (3,725) also said they are Jewish when asked about their religion. In addition, 64 respondents who identified as having “no religion” said, in response to a subsequent question, that they consider themselves Jewish aside from religion and had a Jewish upbringing (they were either raised Jewish in some way or had at least one Jewish parent). These respondents, who make up roughly 2% of the total Jewish sample, are classified as Jewish in this survey.

This approach parallels the methods used to define Jews in Pew Research Center’s 2013 survey of U.S. Jews, which included interviews with 3,475 Jewish respondents. But unlike in Israel, where the vast majority of Jews identified as Jewish by religion, in the U.S. survey roughly one-in-five Jews said they have no religion but that they consider themselves Jewish aside from religion and had a Jewish parent or upbringing.

Israeli Jews united on need for Jewish homeland

Israeli Jews divided on the status of Arabs

More details on this question can be found in Chapter 8.

Politically, Datiim lean toward the right; most Hilonim see themselves in the center

Wide variation in religious observance among Israeli Jew

Overall, Arabs in Israel are more religious than Jews

Few friendships and marriages in Israel cross religious lines

More Arabs than Jews – by a declining margin – optimistic about two-state solution

Plurality of Jews say West Bank settlements help secure Israel

Settlers less optimistic about peace process than Jews who live elsewhere

How religion in Israel is changing over time

While this is Pew Research Center’s first comprehensive study of religion in Israel, data collected through the Israeli census, the Israeli Social Survey, the Guttman Center for Surveys and Pew Research Center’s previous polls in Israel suggest that the Israeli religious landscape has been changing over time in at least three important ways:

• The share of Jews in the total population has been declining, while the share of Muslims in the population gradually has been rising.

• Among Jews, the share who are Orthodox has been slowly rising, largely as a result of high fertility rates among Haredim.

• Surveys conducted over time indicate a modest decline in recent years in the share of Israeli Jews who report moderate levels of religious observance. The reported decline of what might be called the “religious middle” suggests that Israeli society may be becoming more religiously polarized.





Integration of the ultra-Orthodox into modern Israeli society—jobs, schools, the IDF— has stalled, but experts say further progress is inevitable

The Tablet, Jennifer Richler, February 1 2018
see also Finding a New Path


Just a few years ago, the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel seemed poised for a revolution. Over the previous decade, signs of increasing integration of Haredim into modern Israeli society were mounting: greater enrollment in universities, participation in the workforce, and service in the army, as well as the creation of a moderate Haredi party called Tov. People were talking about the rise of the “new Haredim.”

Such a revolution would be a big deal in a country where, due to high birthrates, Haredim constitute an ever-increasing proportion of the Israeli population. In 2015, about 1 in 9 Israelis was Haredi; by 2059, that number is expected to be more than 1 in 4. If Haredi society transforms, so does Israel as a whole.

But the trend of greater integration of Haredim seems to have stalled. Employment and military-service rates among Haredim have plateaued or even declined slightly since 2015, and the Tov party has fared poorly in municipal and national elections. A recent op-ed in Haaretz went as far as referring to Haredi integration as “a marginal phenomenon.” What happened to Israel’s “new Haredim”? And what does the future hold for Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community?

Despite concerns about lost momentum, many experts on Haredi society in Israel believe that in the long run, further integration of Haredim into modern Israeli life is not merely possible—it’s inevitable.

Ironically, the plateau in employment and military participation rates in the past couple of years, many experts agree, can be linked to one specific event: the 2015 election, which resulted in a coalition government that included powerful ultra-Orthodox parties. To appease these members of his coalition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu introduced a variety of policy changes and reversals, including more financial support for yeshiva study and less for job-training programs for Haredim, which had helped boost Haredi employment rates in the previous decade.

“There’s no doubt there’s been a hit,” said Rabbi Dov Lipman, an American-born Haredi who served as a member of Knesset for the Yesh Atid party from 2013 to 2015. Gilad Malach, director of the ultra-Orthodox in Israel program at the Israel Democracy Institute, agreed: When the government adopts measures to placate Haredi leaders who oppose integration, such as easing requirements on Haredi schools to teach secular subjects and increasing funding for full-time yeshiva study, “it slows down the process” of incorporating Haredim into mainstream Israeli life, he said.

Lipman blames the failure of the moderate Haredi Tov party on the “the Haredi political machine,” which effectively crushed it. As the party started gaining attention on a municipal level, he said, hardliners in the Haredi community tried to intimidate Tov Party members and their supporters, ripping party banners off private property, gluing shut the lock to a campaign office in Beit Shemesh, and even throwing rocks at a party candidate on one occasion.

But Lipman believes hardline Haredi political influence is waning. For one thing, he said, the ultra-Orthodox parties are declining in power, with far fewer seats in Knesset than they used to have. “There’s going to be a point in time … where they will not be the political juggernaut they are now,” he said. When these parties have less political capital, we’ll start to see government policies that are more favorable to Haredi integration, he predicted, such as increased funding for Haredi education and job-training programs.

But perhaps the biggest reason Haredim will continue to integrate, many believe, is that they can’t afford not to. A report co-authored by Malach found that in 2015, 52 percent of Haredim lived below the poverty line (compared with 19 percent of the general population), and a quarter of Haredi families suffered from food insecurity. In 2013-14, the report noted, the average monthly wage for ultra-Orthodox employees was 71 percent of the national average, which the authors attributed to lower hourly wages and fewer work hours.

“People are trying to feed their families,” said Rabbi Nechemia Steinberger, dean and director of the Haredi pre-academic program at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, which prepares Haredi students for college. Often that means seeking further education in order to be eligible for higher-paying jobs, he said.

When considering changes in Haredi society in Israel, experts agree it’s important to look at the big picture. Over the years, these changes have been dramatic. Between 2003 and 2015, for example, employment jumped from 36 to 50 percent among males, and from 51 to 73 percent among females, according to the aforementioned report.

Those on the inside have seen these changes firsthand. Just 10 or 15 years ago, “to go out and get an education or work for a big company was very, very rare, and you would be shamed for it,” said Moshe Friedman, founder of Kamatech, a nonprofit that helps Haredim get jobs in the high-tech sector. “Today it’s very different—I know a lot of people going to universities, getting professional training. The trend has changed dramatically.”

The shift in high-tech has been striking, said Friedman, who is Haredi. “When I first started, there were no Haredi entrepreneurs in the country in high-tech,” he said. “No one was like me. I felt like an alien.” In the five years since he started Kamatech, interest in high-tech among Haredim has exploded, he said. A recent program the company launched to train Haredim in high-tech received more than 1,000 applications for just 16 slots, he said.

Yossi Klar, who in 2013 helped run the IDF unit responsible for Haredi integration, noted a similar surge in Haredi military participation. “In the ’90s, barely any Haredim served in the army. Only 20 years later, you have thousands serving,” he said. “That’s a very big change.”

These changes are largely due to gradual shifts in attitudes among those in the Haredi community, which, taken together, have had a major impact. “One friend leads another,” said Lipman. “It’s a silent, street-level revolution that’s going on.” Steinberger agreed: “It’s not the leaders that create the change,” he said. “The field creates the change and … and as time passes, it becomes legitimate.”

That doesn’t mean Haredi integration has been seamless. One of the biggest challenges for Haredim seeking a university degree is that the yeshiva system leaves them utterly unprepared for higher education, experts say. “A typical Haredi boy doesn’t get any secular education at all,” said Steinberger. Haredim, therefore, suffer from a huge knowledge gap relative to their peers. They also lack the necessary work habits and study skills, he said, as yeshiva students generally aren’t required to do homework or take tests.

“When people go from yeshiva to university, they get a bit of a shock,” said Gershon Halevi Moskovits, a Haredi man who lives in Jerusalem and studies at the Open University of Israel.

In addition to academic challenges, there are also social challenges that come from being in a non-Haredi environment for the first time. For some, the main issue is feeling accepted by their peers. One Haredi woman living near Jerusalem, who asked that her name be withheld for privacy reasons, started her studies at an all-female college comprising mostly observant but non-Haredi students, but left after a few months because some of her peers, she said, “smirked at and belittled the Haredi women.” With the encouragement of her rabbi, she switched to the Open University, where, she said, “everyone accepts each other, no matter what their religion or background is.”

Another challenge to integration is continued resistance from leaders in the Haredi community, many of whom see participation in modern Israeli life as the first step toward secularization.

But advocates for greater integration believe it’s possible to balance Haredi values with the need to work. “The message isn’t ‘Be secular,’ it’s ‘Study Talmud, but support your family with dignity,’” said Lipkin. As evidence that such a balance is possible, he points to ultra-Orthodox communities in North America, in which people study Torah but also work, as doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs, among many other professions. Steinberger agrees: “We want the American Haredi model.”

Modern Haredim like Friedman see themselves as living proof that this model can work in Israel. “What I’m doing is evidence that we can be Haredi and integrate in the world without losing our identity,” he said.

Even some ultra-Orthodox rabbis are starting to come around, at least privately. “They say, ‘We won’t support it publicly, but we won’t fight against it,’” said Friedman, referring to efforts to increase Haredi employment.

Lipkin recalls a Haredi rabbi he met with who went even further, telling him, “Keep doing what you’re doing—you’re saving us from ourselves.”

Haredi leaders are more resolute in their opposition to military participation, Lipkin said. “The army is viewed as the engine of the secular state,” he explained. Even in this area, however, Lipkin has seen signs of greater tolerance. For example, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, a leading figure in the Haredi community in Israel who died recently, was quietly supportive of the Nahal Haredi Battalion, a unit of the IDF specifically for Haredi men, as an option for those no longer pursuing full-time yeshiva study, he said.

Those working for greater Haredi integration have a number of goals as they look ahead. One is helping Haredim pursue higher-paying jobs, explained Malach. In a 2016 report, he and his co-authors recommended that the government take steps to increase Haredi employment in fields that offer higher salaries, such as engineering, with the goal of closing the wage gap between Haredim and non-Haredim by 2025. This goal can be achieved, they wrote, through measures such as providing vocational counselors with incentives to direct ultra-Orthodox job-seekers to higher-income jobs, and drafting a covenant, to be signed by Israeli business leaders, committing to hiring more Haredi workers.

Steinberger is working as a special adviser to the Israeli civil service, focusing his efforts on increasing Haredi participation in governmental jobs. He believes that having more Haredim working in government—not as politicians, but as public servants—will not only boost Haredi employment but also improve relations between Haredim and the state. The cabinet recently passed a resolution to guarantee at least 7 percent of civil service employees hired in the next three years will be Haredim.

Most experts agree that in order for these efforts to succeed, it’s important not to impose change from the outside, but to create conditions that allow change to happen naturally. “When you try to pressure [Haredim], you get a backlash,” said Steinberger, citing the outcry among Haredi leaders against the recent Israeli Supreme Court ruling that exemptions from military service for Haredim are unconstitutional.

Getting Haredi integration right is crucial, insiders say, as the future of not only the Haredi community but the country as a whole hangs in the balance. “I feel that what I’m doing first and foremost is saving the Haredi community,” said Friedman. “But it’s also important for the future of [the country].” Without more Haredim participating in modern Israeli life, he said, “the state of Israel will not be able to continue.”

Israel Today, David Lazarus, February 10, 2019

Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jews will once again be the tipping point in Israel’s upcoming election. As Left and Right juggle their options to convince a deeply-skeptical public to follow their lead, the Orthodox will inevitably hold the keys to determining Israel’s next prime minister and the party that will lead the country into our unforeseen future.

And here’s why. The ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim (Hebrew for “those who tremble at His word”), make up about 9% of Israel’s population, but their political power reaches far beyond their numbers. Traditionally, Haredim will vote as a bloc according to directives of their chief rabbis. Voting in alliance has consistently given the Haredim far more influence in determining who will form Israel’s collation governments than the ever-growing lists of non-religious factions. Haredim also come out to vote in far greater numbers than their secular counterparts.

But don’t let the fact that Haredim comply with their rabbis fool you. This does not mean that they are not able to express their personal opinions on politics or candidates. Indeed, politics is considered the national pastime of the ultra-Orthodox! Hesitant to participate in other recreations like sports, movies or spending their leisure time like the secular population, the Haredim love to discuss politics. To have influence over Israel society, it’s security, culture and future, is a source of great pride in Haredi communities. They are very proud of this influence and see it as part of their destiny to Am Yisroel, the People of Israel.

For Haredim, personal opinion on politics or candidates is not as important as concern for the community. Just because they may not agree with their rabbi, it doesn’t mean that they are not voting their own conscience. It is their very awareness of the importance of their community that convinces the ultra-Orthodox to compromise their personal preferences and vote, as recommended by their rabbi, with the whole. For Haredim, their identify is not only as individuals, but as being part of their wider community. The group is more important that one’s personal choice. This is in stark contrast to secular voters, whose personal choices and freedoms are tantamount.

There are two main Haredi voting blocs, Ashkenazi and Sephardic. Since the 1980s, theAshkenazi has become a predominately Hasidic bloc (a spiritual revival movement that began in Eastern Europe). They often join with Degel HaTorah, a non-HasidicHaredi party for elections and coalition-forming. When so combined, they are known as United Torah Judaism. Sephardic Jews are primarily represented by Shas, the Haredi party that was founded and led by Ovadia Yosef, an Iraqi-born Talmudic scholar.

The large majority of all Haredi voters define themselves as conservative right-wingers. However, Haredi parties will often be willing to go along with a peace process, even though most of the people in their constituency may not agree. This is because the issues that truly concern Haredim are more about stipends for yeshiva students, exempting their own from military service, kosher rules or Sabbath observance. Haredi politicians will make deals with secular parties in order to protect the interests of their constituency. Unity with flexibility has given the Haredim huge advantage over other political parties.

Netanyahu continues to be well-liked by the Haredim. He is conservative, has had success in pressing Israel’s case in the international community, and for the most part has managed to protect Haredi interests. For the past 10 years, Netanyahu has been able to offer ultra-Orthodox communities billions of shekels for their institutions in exchange for their remaining a “safe” coalition partner keeping his government intact.

Through more access to Internet news, young Haredi voters are increasingly aware of their civic responsibility and many cast their ballots for Netanyahu’s Likud party in the last election, rather than vote for one of their own Haredi factions. Young ultra-Orthodox Jews are more willing to vote independently of their rabbi’s mandate, and in the last election, according to estimates, a full 30 percent of young voters did not follow their rabbi’s request to vote for a Haredi party. A trend, that if it continues, will likely begin to weaken the power of religion on Israeli politics.

Stanford University, Hoover Institution, Itamar Rabinovich, December 6, 2018

A complex relationship between religion and politics is inherent in Israel’s character as a Jewish state. The term Jewish denotes both a religion and an ethnicity, and, for the past seventy years, Israel’s leaders have had to deal with a host of issues regarding religion’s role in the life and politics of the Jewish state.

The complexity of these issues was one of the difficulties that deterred Israel’s founding fathers from drafting a constitution for the young state. What would have been difficult in 1948 or 1949 became impossible in later years. The Declaration of Independence and a series of basic laws serve as a substitute of sorts.

The Declaration of Independence refers to Israel as a Jewish State but does not quite explain what the term means. The Basic Laws that were passed years later under the influence of the Supreme Court, defined Israel as “Jewish and Democratic”, thus striking a balance between the Jewish identity of the state and the rights of the Arab and other minorities.

In practice, secular and orthodox Jews gradually established a modus vivendi called “the status quo”. The Zionist movement represented an essentially secular, radical departure from orthodox belief that the return to Zion should be a divine act, not the product of human action. As of the 1930s and until 1977 the Jewish community in Palestine and the State of Israel were dominated by Labor Zionism. But the socialist secular leadership, aware of the need to accommodate a 20 percent Orthodox Israeli Jews and of religion’s place in Jewish and Israeli identity were willing to compromise.

 That compromise placed matters of personal status and family law with religious courts (Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze), subjected the definition of “who is a Jew” to Jewish law, turned the Rabbinate into a state agency, allowed the creation of parallel religious school systems and exempted religious scholars from military service. The Orthodox stream of Judaism was given a monopoly in Israel (at the expense of Reform and Conservative Judaism) and religion was allowed to affect (but not monopolize) the public space: thus no public transportation on the Sabbath.

More important, religious parties came to play a prominent role in Israeli politics. The two main streams of Orthodox Judaism - the Orthodox Zionists and the Ultra-Orthodox - were represented in the political arena through parties, and these parties have exerted influence by being essential partners in government coalitions. While the religious Zionist parties were conventional parties, the Ultra-Orthodox parties were subject to clerical authority.

Over the past 50 years, fundamental changes to this system have taken place. Most important has been the transformation of the national religious sector by Israel’s spectacular military victory in 1967. The rapid transition from the crisis of May 1967 to the military exploits of June and the conquest (or liberation) of the West Bank transformed religious Zionism from a moderate dovish camp in the context of the Israeli political spectrum into an ultra-nationalist entity.

Led by radical rabbis and by its own young guard, the National Religious Party adopted a new vision and a new mission. If Labor Zionism led the first phase of the Zionist revolution and founded the Jewish State, it was now religious Zionism’s turn to take charge and direct the second phase, the essence of which would entail keeping and settling Judea and Samaria (the Biblical term for the West Bank). Attachment to the Land of Israel became a religious tenet. There were also secular advocates of Israeli control or annexation of the West Bank or parts of it (as a national security issue), but the core of the movement to settle and keep the West Bank was The Block of the Faithful, an offshoot of the young guard of the National Religious Party.

These trends were reinforced in 1977 by the electoral victory of the Likud, the right-wing block headed by Menachem Begin. Labor Zionism’s hegemony was broken, as was “the historic alliance” between the Labor Party and the National Religious Party. The latter joined Begin’s coalition and has remained an ally of the Likud ever since.

Begin’s success and that of his party in most Israeli elections since 1977 derived, to a large extent, from its appeal to two constituencies: The orthodox and the Sephardi (Jews of Middle Eastern descent). Begin himself was the epitome of an East European Israeli Jew, but he excelled in projecting attachment to Jewish tradition and in portraying himself to Middle Eastern Jews as another victim of the Labor Movement’s establishment. This new alliance between the secular right wing and the religious Right (and, in time, the ultra-orthodox) is an important key to understanding the right wing’s hegemony in Israeli politics since 1977.

The religious dimension of the attachment to the Land of Israel played a particularly prominent role during the campaign against the Oslo Accords during the years 1993-1995. The campaign included a broad right-wing coalition, but its cutting edge was the Settler Movement and its supporters. Led by a group of radical rabbis, the settlers depicted Prime Minister Rabin and his government as traitors, and religious opinions circulated, according to which Rabin was punishable by death. The assassin who killed Rabin in November 1995 stated during his interrogation that he would not have acted without explicit religious sanctions.

Rabin’s assassination produced a crisis in the ranks of religious Zionism and its political organ, the National Religious Party. But the crisis was only temporary. The party was reconstituted under the name The Jewish Home. That party, which has served as the political arm of the Settler Movement and as a partner in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, is promoting a broader agenda seeking to reshape Israel’s legal and educational systems. It is important to bear in mind that a percentage of senior and mid-level officers in the elite units of the IDF are affiliated with the religious Zionists. The role that had been played in past decades by the Kibbutz Movement is now played by religious Zionism. So far, this has not had major political repercussions but the prospect of religious Zionist officers refusing to evacuate settlements hovers over Israeli politics.

During the past few decades, the ultra-orthodox community has gone through a different set of changes. The most important one is demographic. Currently, the ultra-orthodox constitute close to 10 percent of Israel’s population. But given the higher birth rate in its ranks, that percentage - and the community's electoral weight - will go up in the coming years. The traditional landscape of ultra-orthodox parties dominated by East European rabbis changed in the 1980s with the formation of Shass - a party representing orthodox and traditional Jews of Middle Eastern (mostly North African) descent. The party reached a high point in the 1999 parliamentary elections when it obtained 17 out 120 seats in the Knesset - it has since lost some of its original appeal and has been riven by dissension. It holds 7 seats in the current Knesset, and it is part of Netanyahu’s coalition.

Over the years, the ultra-orthodox community, nominally still non-Zionist, has become much more nationalistic, but its agenda is focused on other issues: protecting its educational system, recruiting resources, housing, and fighting over the identity of Israel’s public space. Its conflict with the secular parties and oftentimes with the government itself concerns issues such as the application of military service to its young men, observing the Sabbath in the public space, and opening its educational system to what is known in the Israeli parlance as “core studies” (Math and English). Their pressure has generated counter-pressure by a number of Israeli political parties that have identified themselves as opponents of “religious compulsion”.

Among Israel’s Arab minority a similar debate has taken place over the years between Islamists who advocate a prominent role for Islam in the life and politics in the Arab minority, and others who are either Palestinian-Arab nationalist or Marxist. During the last two decades of the previous century, the Islamic Movement enjoyed a heyday, but during the last few years its influence has declined. and the politics of the Arab sector are currently dominated by secular nationalists.

Israel is currently dominated by a right wing coalition of which the ultra-orthodox and the Jewish Home are an important part. This enables both strands of Jewish orthodoxy to promote their agendas, but the most important consequence of the governing coalition’s character is Israel’s drift in a more nationalistic direction. This has been manifested most clearly by the passing of the Nationality Basic Law in July 2018. The law reinforces Israel’s character as a Jewish state, not in the religious sense, but in the ethnic-nationalist one. It offers a stronger definition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish People and changes the balance between Jewish and democratic core principles that had been built in earlier decades.


Wikipedia  Haredi Judaism

The Chasidic World,    Ultra Orthodox/Haredim/Hasidim (Hasidic, Yeshivish/Litvish and Orthodox:  What’s the Difference?   

ThoughtCo   Who are the Haredim?

Forward, 2018    Who are the Ultra-Orthodox Jews of Israel?   Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel, 2016        

The Israel Democracy Institute, 2016    Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel, December 31 2017   

Press Release   Study Finds Lower Ultra-Orthodox Male Employent in Israel.
Democracy Institute says that after steady rise over several years, rate dropped by 1.4% in 2017

The Times of Israel, AP and TOI staff. 5 February 2018,  Chabad-Lubavitch  

Wikipedia   Israel’s Military Exemption for Ultra-Orthodox is Ruled Unconstitutional

NY Times  The Unheard Story: The Ultra Orthodox Who Leave Everything to Join the IDF. "Leaving the community is hard. It's a drastic step. All your life you're in black and white." Isabel Kershner, September. 12, 2017

Jerusalem Post,  Women in the Israel Defence Forces, Eyton Halon, December 11, 2017

Wikipedia   (Main article: Women in the Israel Defense Forces)   IDF Again Misses Ultra-Orthodox Draft Goal.  Gets Record Female Combat Soldiers.    As this year's enlistment comes to a close, military reveals most trends holding steady, braces for manpower shortages in 2018

Times of Israel, Haredi Women Lead Change.  

The Times of Israel,  Ultra-Orthodox Women Unveil Trailblazing Protest Party,   
Lee Cahaner January 7, 2018
Denied slot in Haredi factions, trio announce 'Bezchutan' party for Knesset run; chairwoman had petitioned High Court against discriminatory lists

Times of Israel, Marissa Newman,  20 January 2015

Haredi Demography – the United States and the United Kingdom

Wikipedia  Haredi Judaism

Chabad Lubavitch, Judaism, Torah and Jewish Info

Haaretz  The State Within a State of Israels ultra-Orthodox Jews  
Planned government oversight threatens hundreds of so-called charitable funds that function as the ultra-Orthodox community's financial lifeline.

What Happened to Israel’s ‘New Haredim’?

Integration of the ultra-Orthodox into modern Israeli society—jobs, schools, the IDF— has stalled, but experts say further progress is inevitable

What You Don’t Know About the Ultra-Orthodox
The least understood and most insular American Jews have much to teach us. Jack Wertheimer, July 1, 201

Arutz Sheva   Dear secular Israelis, the Haredi Jews are Israel's bulwark

Chabad 17 Facts Everyone Should Know About Hasidic Jews

In Israel, Jews are United
by Homeland
but Divided
into very Different Groups

What Happened to Israel’s
‘New Haredim’?

The Power
of Religion
Israeli Politics

Politics In Israel


HAREDIM or CHAREDIM (Ultra Orthodox), DATI (Religious)
MASORTI (Traditional) and HILONI (Secular)