Articles

The Ultra-Orthodox (haredi) community in Israel

 

 

University of Haifa

 

Herzl Institute for the Research and Study of Zionism

 

Program: “Haredi society and the State of Israel: Contemporary and historical aspects”

 

Head of program: Dr. Eila Perkis

 

Rationale

 

Haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) society is a unique group in Israeli society, and in Jewish society throughout the world. It regards itself as a counter-culture to the general society surrounding it, and is unique in terms of its way of life, values, educational frameworks, culture and its tendency toward insulation from the outside world. The rate of this group’s demographic growth (seven percent annually), and the interaction within the group and with the group’s surroundings have changed Haredi society’s physical, cultural and economic positioning in Israeli society.

Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the relationship between Haredi society and the mainstream Israeli society has been complicated. In the past 30 years, the intensity and complexity of this relationship have increased. Over the past few decades, the increasing presence of the Haredi community, with all its various subgroups is a noticeable phenomenon in Israeli society: in vocational training programs, in the job market, in the Israel Defense Forces, in new patterns of urban and rural settlement, in the media, in cinema, in the theater, and many other realms.

It is estimated that Israel’s Haredi community today numbers close to one million (Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, March 2011); furthermore, it is estimated that, in another two decades, this community will double in size, and that every fourth child in Israel will be Haredi. From a small group living in relative seclusion, Haredi society will soon become a major factor in Israel’s demography and will constitute 20 percent of the total population in Israel. The poverty rate in the Haredi community exceeds 50 percent and the average income of a Haredi family is less than half the average income in Israel as a whole. In light of the combination of the above demographic and economic factors, it is obvious that Haredi society represents a burning social issue that demands in-depth study and discussion.

In the face of its current reality, Israeli society must address fundamental questions, including those concerned with day-to-day existence, regarding the Haredi community living in its midst. These questions have significant ramifications for Israeli society in general and require attention to economic issues and the problem of poverty, demography, the country’s employment situation and educational system. The integration of the Haredi community in all the various segments of Israeli society is one of the State of Israel’s most important challenges today.

 

The goal of the program

 

The goal is to develop a multidisciplinary research program that will address the contemporary and historical aspects of this topic and will study the processes transpiring in the Haredi community and in the majority society in Israel that surrounds it. The study will have both academic and practical components and will hopefully contribute to the formulation of policies that can effectively address substantive issues pertaining to the Haredi community and the majority society in Israel.

Participants in the program will include scholars from various disciplines, such as history, sociology, anthropology, education, cultural studies, and communications with the aim to promote academic discourse and collaboration.

In addition to initiating and organizing think tanks, study groups, conferences and seminars, the program will promote research studies and scholarly publications on central and critical topics that have a major impact on the Haredi community and on Israeli society in general. These topics include education, university-level education, post-secondary studies, employment, economic issues, gender, communications and many others. The participants in these activities will be individuals belonging to both the Haredi community and the majority society in Israel, including members of the academic community and persons playing key roles in Israeli society.

 

 

Research study: “Haredi youth dropouts in Israel: On a tightrope between two worlds”

Dr. EilaPerkis

Funded by Israel’s Ministry of Science and Technology

 

As a result of changes that have taken place in the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) community in Israel over the past two decades, cracks have developed in the protective wall that the community has constructed around the members of the younger generation to shut out external influences. The phenomenon of adolescent dropout, first from school and then society,  is becoming a growing problem in the Haredi community. Often the dropouts sever their ties with that community; some of them even become members of the marginal areas of Israeli society, and are thus in serious danger of developing criminal and socially deviant behavior patterns.

On the one hand, the scope of the phenomenon of Haredi youth dropouts demands that the problem be urgently addressed by both the Haredi community and Israeli society in general; on the other hand, the problem has not been given sufficient attention by the academic community, or by the relevant authorities.

This qualitative research study on the above phenomenon aspires to conduct a systematic, in-depth study of the problem of Haredi adolescent dropouts in Israel. The working assumption in this study is that the problem cannot be understood by looking at it from the outside. Through in-depth interviews with Haredi adolescents on the brink of dropping out, their parents and persons in key positions, the research study will attempt to provide answers to the various questions related to this problem.

The findings of the study will be used to help in the formulation of various practical solutions to the problem, such as, for example, the development of tools for locating and identifying Haredi adolescents who are in danger of dropping out, or have already dropped out, of their respective educational framework; the institutionalization of services that can provide solutions for Haredi youth dropouts within the context of the Haredi community; and the creation of a professional training program for members of the Haredi community so they can effectively deal with the problem.

We are currently in the midst of analyzing the findings of the pilot stage. On the basis of these findings, we will be able to decide what tools we should develop and what should be the salient features of the research study’s target population.

 

Steps that are being taken and which will be taken in order to advance the research study’s program

 

  • Establishment of collaborative relationships with various Haredi and non-Haredi agencies
  • Presentation at an academic conference on “How the community should deal with victims of crime and with criminals: ‘Restorative justice’ from the multicultural perspective,” January 2013, Western Galilee College, Akko; topic of lecture given by Dr. Eila Perkis: “The ‘Restorative Justice’ Approach and the Haredi community”
  • Organization of one-day conferences, discussion groups and research workshops on various topics pertaining to the issue of the Haredi community’s integration in Israeli society
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