Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Tammuz 5765 - July 13, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








A Comprehensive Survey of the Chareidi Community in Eretz Yisroel — "Its Length and its Breadth"

by Betzalel Kahn, Aryeh Zissman and M. Chevroni

Part II

Chareidi Jewry in Eretz Yisroel has undergone far-reaching changes in recent years. Changes that in the not-so-distant future will become very significant from the standpoint of the chareidi public as a whole in contrast to the general population. To put it in clear, simple English: the chareidi public is growing, bli ayin hora, at a rate unknown in any other segment of the Jewish population in Israel. Meanwhile the secular population is diminishing, though slowly. The trendlines are very clear.

In 5708 (1948) there were less than 700,000 people living in little Eretz Yisroel. The country has grown since then and now numbers nearly seven million. Of the few hundred thousand residents at the beginning of the State, the chareidi population numbered in the tens of thousands.

The Jewish revolution in the State of Israel, despite the difficulties from without and within, is merely gathering strength. The number of lomdei Torah in Eretz Yisroel has not been so high for thousands of years. Yeshivas and kollelim abound and, in 5765, one-fourth of all the high-school age students in the country were enrolled in chareidi educational institutions.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, of the State of Israel's 6.5 million residents 83 percent are Jewish: around 5.4 million. The other 17 percent are Arab, Christian, etc. However a significant number of Russian immigrants who are not really Jewish is included in this figure since they entered registered as Jews. The working number that is usually used is about five million Jews.

A CBS survey conducted a few months ago among 10,000 respondents age 20 and over, produced the following results: the adult chareidi population numbers 5 percent, the religious population 8 percent, the traditional religious population (masorati — meaning that they may go to shul on Shabbos but also to soccer games on occasion) is 11 percent, the traditional non-religious population 24 percent, the secular population 35 percent and the remaining 17 percent did not respond.

According to estimates, the chareidi sector is growing at a rate of 25 percent every six years. If in 2003 (the time of that survey) the chareidi population numbered 680,000 that figure can be expected to rise to 850,000 in 2009 and nearly 1.1 million in 2015, or 17 percent of the Jewish population. According to population forecasts, the combined chareidi- religious population will come to 37 percent of the Jewish population in another 10 years. The Arab sector will then constitute 22 percent of the population. These three sectors combined will represent over half of the country's residents.


Over the next weeks we will present this comprehensive survey of the chareidi community of Eretz Yisroel. Our reporters tried to include every city, community or settlement that has a chareidi community. Yerushalayim, Bnei Brak, Modi'in Illit, Beit Shemesh and Beitar get most of the regular press coverage, but there are other significant concentrations literally all over the country, as will become evident. We have tried to present the communities in English alphabetical order, but the fact that this material is largely a translation from Hebrew has raised some technical problems that may cause some minor discrepancies. We ask our readers' indulgence, and believe that the results are nonetheless very impressive. The reaction to seeing the breadth and variety of the community is almost always an impressed: Kein ayin hora!


The Chareidim in Israel

Until 15 years ago Eretz Yisroel had a chareidi mayor in just one city: Bnei Brak, "the city of Torah and Chassidus." In every city with a small chareidi population residents tried to send representatives to city hall, but generally without success. Bnei Brak has always been the big exception because the chareidi community was always dominant there, though it has become more completely chareidi in recent years.

In contrast, the chareidi sector in Jerusalem over the years had relatively little representation compared to the Left, which dominated in many parts of the country and especially in Jerusalem where Teddy Kollek's party held the majority of council seats for around two decades.

However, since the State's early years and later the political reordering of the 70s, far-reaching changes have taken place. First the Shas Party was set up in 5744 (1984) followed by Degel HaTorah in 5788 (1988), which reunited with Agudas Yisroel four years later under the United Torah Jewry (UTJ) list. An examination of what has taken place since the beginning of the 80s reveals an amazing change.

The chareidi public, which constituted just a small percentage of the general population in the State of Israel, began to grow at an extremely rapid rate. We have not seen its impact in the electoral results at a national level — United Torah Judaism still has no more than five representatives — but it is definitely going on.

For example, the following election results from 5752 (1992) to today demonstrate how much the UTJ and Shas core chareidi constituency has increased by more than 100,000 voters over the past decade alone: In 5752 (1992) UTJ and Shas had a total of 172,000 votes (the number of chareidi Shas voters is about the same as the number of UTJ voters), whereas four years later their ranks had mushroomed to 200,000, three years later to 251,000 and in the last elections to 270,000. This is of course an estimate since Shas attracts many non- chareidi voters, but these numbers are intended to reflect only their chareidi votes.

The number of chareidi party mandates (Knesset seats) has not grown much, however, because one million immigrants from Russia came to Israel in the 90s. They swelled the voter rolls and thereby diluted the effect of the chareidi population increase. Since the Knesset seats are allocated on a proportional basis, their addition to the pool of voters meant that a political party had to increase considerably just to remain at the same level. Knesset seats are given out based on a percentage of votes cast: each seat of the 120 in the Knesset represents just about one percent of the total vote. But because the Russian immigration recently halted almost completely, the picture should start to change soon, be'ezras Hashem: the number of chareidi representatives in the Knesset should grow from one election to the next.

Eight Mayors Within 15 Years

The rapid growth rate has led to a number of positive developments.

First of all, the chareidi public, which secluded itself in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem's chareidi neighborhoods until a few years ago, has begun to burgeon forth. The high growth rate also made chareidi cities flourish, drawing young couples from Bnei Brak and Jerusalem to Modi'in Illit, Beitar Illit, Elad, Emanuel, Telz-Stone, Rechasim, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, Ofakim, Netivot, Yeruchom, Beit Shemesh, Arad, Rechovot and many other cities. In Jerusalem as well, the chareidi population began to expand its borders, taking over secular neighborhoods little by little.

The result has been astonishing. While 15 years ago chareidi Jewry could claim only one mayor, today we can proudly point to no fewer than eight—in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Modi'in Illit, Beitar Illit, Elad, Emanuel, Rechasim, Telz- Stone—and the list is expected to grow.

Take, for example, Jerusalem, where the left reigned for decades. The transformation began some 15 years ago. The chareidi representation on the city council grew from four seats to six, then to eight, twelve and today fourteen (of 32 — 43.4 percent), with UTJ's Rabbi Uri Lupoliansky in the mayor's office.

As part of this growth pattern, over the years the municipality, even while still under a Likud mayor, began to understand the chareidi public's needs much better, particularly following the setup of the Department of Chareidi Education, which is responsible for nearly half of the city's children. Despite the movement of young couples to new chareidi towns built over the past 15 years, Jerusalem's chareidi population continues to grow. Enrollment figures provide the most significant indicator of this trend.


Region: North

Demographic composition: Jewish and Arab

Representation: 2 Shas councilmen

The spirit of the late rov of Acco, HaRav Shalom Lopes, still lives on in the city. Wide-ranging Torah activity can be found near his beis knesses, including a kollel and shiurim. Other Torah seekers are concentrated near Beit Knesset Avodas Yisroel. According to Rabbi Meir Katz, one of the heads of Lev L'Achim, "This city is a city with a highly developed teshuvoh movement."

In the evening local residents gather for shiurim and a midrasha program. The Yeshivat Acco building hosts young people for Shabbos meals and houses a midrasha for girls.

Acco has Bais Yaakov schools for girls and for boys and a girls' high school run by veteran educator Rav Yitzchok Nashri. Shas also operates a school.


Region: Jezreel Valley

Population: 42,000

Demographic composition: Mixed

Representation: Rotation between Shas and Degel HaTorah

The combination of the Netivot Moshe girls' school and outreach activities sponsored by the local Wolfson kollel have worked wonders in Afula. Founded eight years ago, the school has effected major changes in the city. This year the first group of eighth-grade girls are preparing to graduate and all of them plan to enroll in chareidi high schools in the North. Needless to say they all entered the school as secular girls.

The school has a total enrollment of 126 students. In the coming school year a kindergarten, mechinoh and first- grade classes are scheduled to open for the children of local kollel families and high-caliber baalei teshuvoh families. The local kollel has high entry requirements and offers a concomitantly high stipend.


Region: South

Population: 28,000

Demographic composition: Mixed

Representation: 2 UTJ councilmen

Arad has a Chassidic community of 200 families, mostly Chassidei Gur, but every chareidi who moves to the town, many for health reasons since it is a desert, pollen-free area, is immediately taken in and becomes a full-fledged member.

The local chareidi kehilloh was started in 5741 (1981) when the Admor (the author of Lev Simchoh) moved to Arad for health reasons. Now the town has two day-care centers, ten kindergartens, an elementary school and an educational complex with yeshivas and kollelim.

Apartments are relatively inexpensive but employment opportunities are limited. Gur residents run large food stores offering every hechsher and there is even a glatt kosher hotel in town.


Region: Middle Galilee

Population: 50,000

When Carmiel was founded by immigrants from Romania 40 years ago, they never expected (or wanted) to see religious Jews in the city. They built just one beis knesses for propriety's sake. Today the founders must be turning over in their graves at the sight of the city's 23 botei knesses.

Eighteen years ago HaRav Avrohom Tzvi Margalit, the Ashkenazi rov of the city, started Carmiel's chareidi neighborhood by building Yeshivas Keren Ora. To this day he recalls what Maran HaRav Shach told him when he went to the Rosh Yeshiva to ask for his blessings. "The Negev is blossoming while the Galilee is desolate," he said. "The desolation has to bloom."

Today there are chareidi kindergartens, chadorim, a Chinuch Atzmai school, a special-education school, a yeshiva ketanoh, a girls' high school and two kollelim with a total of 60 avreichim active in local outreach programs. "The general population is thirsting for Yiddishkeit," says the director of the Keren Ora institutions.


Region: Sharon (Shomron)

Population: 4,000

Demographic composition: Chareidi

Representation: 9 councilmen; Council Head Rabbi Yeshayohu Ehrenreich

Emanuel was founded in 5741 (1981) by Kochav Hashomron at the initiative of Ariel Sharon. In recent years out-migration was high but that trend has turned around say Local Council officials.

The town has 17 botei knesses—Chanichei Hayeshivos, Slonim, Gur, Breslev, general chassidic, Yemenite, Sephardic, etc.—and eight kollelim with 150 avreichim, in addition to an evening kollel for Daf Yomi teachers from throughout the area.

"Today Emanuel is no longer just a place to live," says Rabbi Ehrenreich. "In the past few years it has turned into a tourism and recreation town with a variety of attractions. There are an abundance of gardens, expansive grass areas, hiking trails, breathtaking views and unique playgrounds."


Region: Northern Sharon

Population: 80,000

Demographic composition: Mixed

Representation: 3 Shas councilmen, 1 Degel HaTorah, 1 NRP

When driving fast on the Coastal Plain Highway the "Hadera" sign is easy to miss, but inside the city is a dynamic chareidi populace that is very proud of its city.

Hadera has always had a chareidi presence and Yeshivas Hadera has always been at the center of the kehilloh. One of the top yeshivas in Eretz Yisroel, it used to be called Itri Hadera and today it is called Knesses Yitzchok. The yeshiva has 350 bochurim and dozens of avreichim. There are also two chadorim located nearby: Eitz Hadaat for Sephardim and Knesses Yitzchok for Ashkenazim. The moro de'asra, HaRav D. Werner runs a large kollel called Bircas Shmuel. The Sephardic moro de'asra, HaRav S. Biton, also runs a large kehilloh called Or Yosef with a yeshiva and kollel in Givat Olga.

Lev L'Achim has a large, longstanding outreach program in Hadera that claims a significant number of baalei teshuvoh to its credit.

The Bais Yaakov school has a new campus with 450 students in two separate wings. Other schools include Shuvu, which was started by Lev L'Achim, and the Netivot Moshe School for Sciences and Judaism. Hadera also has a girls' high school and seminary headed by Rabbanit Gefen, another girls' school called Netiv Or and eight kindergartens run by Reshet Haganim.


Region: Capital of the North

Population: 270,000

Demographic composition: Mixed

Representation: 3 Shas councilmen, 1 UTJ, 2 NRP

"Red Haifa" — known that way for its strong Communist party - - has long since assumed a different hue. The large chareidi population, the extensive Torah activities, one of the top chareidi education systems in the country and the variegated, flourishing community life all had a significant impact on Haifa.

At yeshivas around the country Haifa students stand out as high-caliber, well-raised young men. "Besiyato deShmaya we don't have `fringe youth,'" says a well-known Haifa educator.

The city is notable for its unity, which is no small thing. Living side-by-side in Haifa are large communities of Seret- Vishnitz, Gur, Belz, Tsanz and other smaller Chassidic groups in addition to large Litvak populations in the Hadar and Neveh Shaanan neighborhoods. Everyone davens by everyone else; everyone goes to each other's simchas.

The spiritual center of Hadar is Yeshivas Tiferes Yisroel, which houses a kollel, Yeshivas Maoz Chaim, a central beis knesses and extensive Torah activities including shiurim from sunrise until midnight. There are also dozens of other kollelim in the neighborhood.

Other developing communities include the Viennese kehilloh, headed by HaRav Shneur Kluft, Minyan Chanichei Hayeshivos headed by Dayan HaRav Michoel Bleicher, and Beis Knesses Tzionei Eretz Yisroel. The largest, most cohesive kehilloh is the 200 kollel families in Neveh Shaanan studying at six kollelim surrounding Yeshivas Nachalas Halevi'im, one of the most prominent yeshivas in Eretz Yisroel.


Region: Sharon

Population: 100,000

Demographic composition: Mixed

Representation: 1 Degel HaTorah councilman, 1 Shas

The city is named after . . . well, let's just say it's not a chareidi city. But there are chareidi families here and there, a few hundred in total, mostly surrounding HaRav Yehuda Yaakobovitz. Many of them are baalei teshuvoh and their numbers are growing. There is no genuine kehilloh but in Neveh Amal one can see the first signs of a kehilloh starting to take shape.

The city has four kollelim, five chareidi kindergartens and a Chinuch Atzmai school.

Hod Hasharon

Region: Sharon

Population: 40,000

Demographic composition: Mixed

Representation: 1 Shas councilman

An afternoon and evening kollel draws local residents including many baalei teshuvoh and even a few geirei tzedek. The town has 40 botei knesses. HaRav Reinhold of Bnei Brak has been active here for 30 years. About 100 chareidi families make Hod Hasharon their home.


Population: 700,000

Chareidi families: 50,000

Demographic composition: Chareidi, religious, secular, Arab

Representation: 9 UTJ councilmen, 5 Shas, 3 NRP; Mayor Rabbi Uri Lupoliansky

There should be no need to write about the Holy City of Jerusalem, the center of the world and the place where every Jew faces at least three times a day.

Most of the city's chareidi residents live in the following neighborhoods: Ramot Alef, Ramot Beit, Ramot Gimmel, Ramot Daled, Ramat Shlomo, Sanhedria, Sanhedria Murchevet, Pagi, Ramat Eshkol, Arzei Habira, Shmuel Hanovi, Neveh Tzvi, Bucharim, Me'ah She'arim, Geula, Beit Yisroel, Kerem Avraham, Mekor Boruch, Romema, Ezras Torah, Givat Moshe, Kiryat Tzanz, Kiryat Unsdorf, Kiryat Mattersdorf, Kiryat Itri, Kiryat Belz, Shikun Harabbanim — known collectively as shechunot hatzafon the northern neighborhood — the Jewish Quarter, Shaarei Chessed, Knesset, Neveh Yaakov-Kamenitz, Givat Shaul, Kiryat Moshe, Har Nof, Bayit Vegan and Givat Mordechai. Many more chareidim live in mixed neighborhoods such as Katamon, Rechavia, Gilo, French Hill and the downtown area.

Jerusalem has at least 140 talmudei Torah, 60 elementary schools for girls, 50 high schools and seminaries, 20 special education kindergartens and schools and hundreds of yeshivas and kollelim.

The new mayor has dramatically increased housing availability in chareidi neighborhoods through both expansion and densification projects and has worked hard to make the whole city a cleaner place.

Kfar Gidon

Region: Jezreel Valley

Population: 70 families

Chareidi families: 50 families

Those who love tranquility, agricultural life, kashrus and shechitoh can find it in Kfar Gidon. There is also a regional Chinuch Atzmai school with 400-500 students, a kollel, two kindergartens, a day-care center and a high school.

Kfar Gidon faces internal problems caused by secular residents wary of further chareidi development. The local committee, comprised of four chareidi representatives and one secular representative, hopes to overcome the difficulties.

Kfar Yonah

Region: Sharon

Population: 12,000

Demographic composition: Mixed

A small observant community sprouted in Kfar Yonah and grew. Today the town has 14 botei knesses. The number of chareidi residents is small, but the community is not plagued by anti-religious sentiments.

Kfar Yonah has a Chinuch Atzmai kindergarten and educational institutions run by Maayan Hachinuch. Girls study in Bais Yaakov schools in Netanya. As the town's religious residents grow spiritually, many of them move to chareidi areas in other parts of the country.

There was an attempt to start an area of chareidi housing but the Council Head blocked the initiative, saying he did not want to build "a ghetto."

Kiryat Ata

Region: North

Population: 55,000

Demographic composition: Mixed

Representation: 2 Shas, 2 NRP

Once called Kfar Ata, Kiryat Ata is the most chareidi of the Haifa Bay suburbs (the Krayot). There is an all- chareidi complex consisting of four buildings known as Shikun Sighet, which has a beis knesses, a mikveh and a new playground. The city has several kollelim, a yeshiva ketanoh, a talmud Torah, and a Bais Yaakov school.

Chareidi infrastructures ready and waiting in Kiryat Ata, where an avreich who moves in can give a shiur at one of the city's 120 botei knesses and receive full support from the local rabbonim, who will receive him with open arms.

The second largest chareidi population in the Haifa Bay area is in Kiryat Shmuel, which has kollelim and a yeshiva. The yeshiva building also houses several kindergartens, a kollel for baalei batim and the Netivot Moshe School, where enrollment is expected to reach 200 students next year.

Kiryat Bialik has a kollel and a midrasha run by Arachim. Tzur Shalom has several kollelim, and Kiryat Yam has one kollel.

Kiryat Gat

Region: Lachish (South)

Population: 70,000

Demographic composition: Traditional, secular, chareidi

Kiryat Gat has a Sephardic kehilloh with approximately 300 families and a chassidic kehilloh started a decade ago by the late Gerrer Rebbe, the Pnei Menachem. Hundreds of new Gur families are currently in the process of moving to a new building project in the city. There are also some 40 Slonim families.

Institutions include a day-care center, a talmud Torah and a large kollel. Jerusalem is just an hour away by bus and buses to Bnei Brak, Ashdod and Arad are also available.

Women work in education in Ashkelon, Be'er Sheva, Sderot and even Kommemiyus. The men are avreichim or work as mashgichei kashrus or business owners.

Kiryat Yearim (Telz-Stone)

Region: Judean Mountains (near Yerushalayim)

Population: 3,500

Demographic composition: Chareidi

Representation: 9 councilman; Council Head Rabbi Avrohom Rosenthal

Kiryat Yearim was founded in 5734 (1974) when Yeshivas Telz- Cleveland sent HaRav Eliezer Sorotzkin to Eretz Yisroel to set up a new housing project in the Judean Mountains near Jerusalem. Later HaRav Mordechai Gifter zt"l came to live in the town for two years, serving as the rosh yeshiva of the local Telz Yeshiva.

Since then Kiryat Yearim has continued to develop and today it offers all of the services a chareidi home needs, including 10 botei knesses, kupot cholim and its well-known Post-Birth recovery center (Beit Hachlamah Leyoldot). Torah institutions include five kollelim, five yeshivas, two yeshivos ketanos, two talmudei Torah, a Bais Yaakov school, five kindergarten classes for girls (with an exemption from tuition from the age of three), and mishpachtonim and day-care center in the works.

Recently construction began on 300 housing units, most of which have already been sold, but there are plans to build another 300 apartments. The Council Head is currently working to expand the borders of the town northward, which would make possible the construction of thousands of additional apartments.


Kommemiyus is entirely chareidi and has 90 families. The kehilloh is well organized and farming-oriented. They raise turkey and chicken and run dairy farms. Agricultural industry is currently being developed, i.e. hothouses, corn, wheat and garbanzo beans.

Kommemiyus also has a day-care center, kindergarten, talmud Torah, yeshiva and kollel. The girls' elementary and high school has a dormitory and draws students from around the country. The women who work are employed as teachers. Potential new residents have to pass an exhaustive acceptance committee followed by a confirmation committee.

Lod and Ramle

Region: Coastal Plain

Demographic composition: Mixed

Representation: 3 Shas, 1 independent

Every morning dozens of avreichim make their way from Modi'in Illit to Lod and Ramle. Other avreichim make these cities their home soon after the wedding and move elsewhere when their first child reaches school age. Lev L'Achim is active here and the results are plain to see, especially in registering children for the local Chinuch Atzmai schools.


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