Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Sivan 5765 - July 6, 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 I

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. It will take many years before secular Jews become a minority, but 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. Although this sector had a large impact on the nation's early development and the character that took shape through the years, the more it grew, the more the secular sector grew as well — at least up until now.

This is not the place to recall the historical injustices committed by the nation's leaders, who robbed tens of thousands of Jews of their heritage and religion in the immigrant transit camps, thereby increasing the demographic gap between the observant and the nonobservant. A significant portion of today's traditional and secular public are the children of those tinokos shenishbu.

This is also the reason the State of Israel opened its gates to hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union fifteen years ago — both to preserve the demographic balance between the Jews and Arabs and to keep the chareidi population in check. Not to speak of the various decrees imposed on the chareidi sector in recent years.

All this has not and will not help the powers-that-be to achieve their objective. 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.

Almost 700,000 Chareidim in Israel

The spokesman's office at the City of Beitar Illit conducted in-depth research last year on the statistics of Israel's chareidi population. The study relies on hundreds of documents, figures, surveys and studies published in recent years.

One of the official figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics indicates out 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.

Determining how many of the five million Jews in the State of Israel are chareidi or religious is not easy. A year and a half ago the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) conducted a comprehensive, in-depth study — whose results were hidden away after alarmed CBS officials found the chareidi sector in Israel constituted 13 percent of the population. But another CBS survey conducted a few months ago among 10,000 respondents age 20 and over, representing a sample of half of the country's population, 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.

This survey, which is probably a floor result meaning that the true number is certainly no lower than that, shows that the adult chareidi population constitutes 5 percent of the Jewish population or 250,000 — not including the numerous children, kein yirbu. A survey conducted by Manof — The Center for Jewish Information — reveals chareidi families have an average of 6.2 members (Editor's note: It was not clear in the information if this is 6.2 children or 6.2 total family members. We are assuming the latter). Based on a simple calculation, if the chareidi public has 110,000 households there are a total of 680,000 chareidim. That means the total chareidi population is about 13 percent of the Jewish population, in the State of Israel, just as the scrapped CBS study found.

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, since the religious sector (which is also growing fairly rapidly) will total approximately 20 percent of the Jewish population 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 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!


Region: South

Population: 192,000

Demographic composition: Chareidi (approximately 10,000 families), religious, traditional, secular

Representation: 2 UTJ councilmen, 2 Shas councilmen, 2 Sephardi councilmen

The cornerstone for the city's chareidi community was laid in 5726 (1946) when construction began on Yeshivas Ponovezh- Grodna. Today 220 bochurim and over 100 avreichim study at the yeshiva and Ashdod has become the home of the country's third largest chareidi population. Relatively few of them are immigrants.

The city was laid out according to precise plans. The streets are wide, greenery is plentiful and the architecture is attractive. There are no traffic jams or one-way streets. Landscaping and playgrounds can be found everywhere.

The chareidi community is divided into several different areas, the largest of which is Eizor Zayin ("Area 7"), which has dozens of botei knesses, yeshivas, kollelim, chadorim, girls' schools, etc. Yeshivas Grodna is in Kiryat Ponovezh, which is located in Eizor Gimmel, the city's oldest chareidi neighborhood. Institutions run by Gur, Belz and Pittsburgh are also located here. In Eizor Chet is a Gur neighborhood housing 700 families in a section called Kiryat Rota. Chareidi residents also occupy entire streets in Eizor Tet, which is considered the prestigious part of the city for the chareidi public. All of the chareidi parts of the city are slowly expanding outward.

The three dominant Chassidic groups in order of size are Gur (1,500 families), Belz (500 families) and Vishnitz. Other Chassidic kehillos include Pittsburgh, Melitz, Tolna, Nashchiz and Chernobl. The Sephardic bnei Torah community is also large and impressive. The city's educational institutions are flourishing.

Ashdod has four large chareidi food markets in addition to several corner markets. The industrial zone has several factories under chareidi ownership and the city has an active chareidi tourism industry, particularly in the summer. Ashdod also has one of the most kosher beaches in the country.

The community centers offer swimming pools and afternoon activities for children and evening activities for women.


Region: South

Population: 110,000

Demographic composition: Secular, religious

Representation: 2 UTJ councilmen, 3 Shas councilmen

Ashkelon does not have a chareidi neighborhood, but there are approximately one hundred chareidi families—including numerous baalei teshuvoh and about ten Lev L'Achim activists—scattered around the city. Attempts to bring in a large number of chareidim have failed. Enrollment at the local talmud Torah, Chinuch Atzmai school and numerous kindergartens is growing from year to year thanks to Lev L'Achim's annual enrollment drive.


Region: Central

Population: 9,900

Demographic composition: Secular, chareidi

Representation: 1 Degel HaTorah councilman, 1 Shas councilman

Located near Holon, Azur has several dozen chareidi families and boasts two central kollelim as well as several smaller kollelim. Dozens of avreichim commute from Bnei Brak every day to stay in a quiet environment. Degel HaTorah Councilman Rabbi Yonah Moskovitz says the local avreichim are actively involved in outreach activities.

There are a number of chareidi kindergartens, but older students are bused to the surrounding towns.

Be'er Sheva

Region: "Capital of the Negev"

Population: 180,000

Demographic composition: Mixed

Representation: 5 chareidi councilmen

Be'er Sheva has a self-contained chareidi community comprised predominantly of Sephardim but there are also bnei Torah of Ashkenazi origin living there. Young chareidi couples tend to leave Be'er Sheva for outlying towns like Netivot and Ofakim, which offer housing opportunities more suitable for first-time buyers. The city is known as Eretz Yisroel's largest exporter of young chareidim.

The chareidi community was founded by European immigrants in 5709 (1949). At first the Ashkenazi kehilloh remained totally separate but the divisions faded as the population grew. The city's one cheder, founded by Satmar, serves primarily Sephardic families. Chinuch Atzmai started several talmudei Torah and girls' schools.

Be'er Yaakov

Region: Coastal Plain

Population: 8,700

Demographic composition: Secular, religious, traditional, chareidi

Representation: 2 councilmen

The carefully preserved rural flavor combined with its proximity to Rishon Letzion, Ramle and Bnei Brak have made Be'er Yaakov in high demand in recent years. Attractive single-family homes have been popping up like mushrooms in every neighborhood and prices are rising.

The Be'er Yaakov yeshiva was founded over 50 years ago when the Chazon Ish told HaRav Shlomo Wolbe to start a yeshiva. The yeshiva is currently headed by HaRav Dovid Yitzchok Shapira and HaRav Moshe Dovid Lefkowitz, the respective sons of HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapira and HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz.

Be'er Yaakov Seminary, founded by HaRav Moshe Menachem Yaacobson, has hundreds of students including a special department for immigrants from Bukhara and Georgia which boasts 3,000 graduates now building and sustaining Torah homes. The town also has Talmud Torah Shevet Halevy, several kollelim and numerous botei knesses. The majority of kollel families live on Rechov R' Meir Baal Hanness. Most of the non-chareidi population is "dati" or "masorti."

Beit She'an

Region: Jordan Valley

Population: 18,000

Demographic composition: Traditional, religious and chareidi

Representation: 2 councilmen

With 250-300 chareidi families scattered around the city, Beit She'an has chareidi schools for boys and girls. The city has always had a predominantly traditional population. Since its arrival in 5748 (1988) Degel HaTorah has had a noticeable impact on the city thanks to the efforts of former councilman Rabbi Yosef Abu, who now works through Yeshivat Ahavat Shalom to promote Torah life in the city.

Beit Shemesh

Region: Judean Foothills

Population: 70,000

Demographic composition: Secular, traditional, religious and chareidi

Representation: 2 Degel HaTorah councilmen, 1 Agudas Yisroel, 3 Shas, 2 NRP

Chareidi Beit Shemesh got its start decades ago through the efforts of HaRav Reuven Elbaz, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Or Hachaim. Hundreds of families did teshuvoh through his efforts.

The city's first chareidi neighborhood was built and today it is home to 1,100 families. Another 3,300 families, two-thirds chareidi, live in Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef, and 1,500 live in Ramat Beit Shemesh Beit. Over 2,300 housing units designated for chareidi buyers are slated for construction over the next two years.

Chareidim constitute 40 percent of the city's total population, and 55 percent of all students are enrolled in chareidi schools. According to predictions a chareidi candidate will win the next mayoral elections, if the community unites behind one candidate.

Beit Shemesh has 52 kindergarten classes for girls, 26 kindergarten classes for boys (not including kindergartens at talmudei Torah), 22 girls' schools, 32 talmudei Torah, 7 high schools and seminaries for girls, 70 kollelim and 10 yeshivas.

Commerce is highly developed in the chareidi neighborhoods and there is a large range of gemachim. The chareidi sector combines Litvaks, Yerushalmim, Sephardim, Chassidim and large communities of immigrants from the US, England and other countries.

Beitar Illit

Region: Jerusalem

Population: 30,000

Demographic composition: chareidi

Representation: 3 Degel HaTorah councilmen, 7 Agudas Yisroel, 3 Shas; Mayor Rabbi Yitzchok Pindrus

Beitar Illit's story begins about 2,000 years ago during the Second Temple Period. According to maseches Gittin, "Beitar had 400 botei knesses and each one of them had 400 melamdim and every melamed had 400 students." And maseches Brochos recounts how Chazal added the fourth brochoh onto Bircas Hamozone when the Romans permitted the Jews to bury the victims of the Beitar Massacre.

Beitar remained desolate for two millennia until building began 15 years ago—the first of various construction projects to solve the housing crisis in the chareidi sector. The town is nestled in the Judean Mountains just a 12-minute drive from Jerusalem.

Today almost 30,000 residents live on the city's two ridgelines, enjoying a pristine view, mountain air and the distinctive atmosphere of a Torah community. With 1,800 annual births, Beitar has the highest percentage of child residents in the country at 62 percent. Every year 80 new kindergarten classes are opened.

The city boasts 130 botei knesses, 60 kollelim for the thousands of avreichim studying in the city, 28 talmudei Torah, 16 girls' schools and seminaries, 125 kindergartens and a total student enrollment of 10,000.

The city offers a wealth of infrastructures: a community center, a children's library, a Torah library, a large indoor- play facility, a pedagogical center, a large events hall, a yeshiva high school for Russian-speaking immigrants, a full range of clinics, various supermarkets, shops of all kinds, a Bank Pagi branch, a Bituach Leumi office, a post office, a beis din, a central tzedokoh fund, 11 mikvo'os and 630 gemachim.

The city has always placed special emphasis on maintaining its clean, pristine appearance, and has won awards for its cleanliness.

With 5,000 families living there now, the city has begun a project to build another 3,500 housing units on a third ridgeline. Beitar is slated to eventually house a total of 100,000 residents.

Bnei Brak

Region: Central

Population: 140,000

Demographic composition: Chareidi, religious

Representation: 15 UTJ councilmen, 7 Shas; Mayor Rabbi Yissochor Frankentahl

Bnei Brak was founded 80 years ago by a group of Polish Chassidim headed by Rav Yitzchok Gershtenkoren, who later served as mayor. The "City of Torah and Chassidus" boasts hundreds of yeshivas and kollelim including Yeshivas Ponovezh, admorim, talmudei Torah, schools, kindergartens, etc. For decades the city has been home to many of the leading gedolei Torah of the generation.

The city is densely populated, but never has one been heard to say, "Tzar li hamokom." There is plenty of room for all of the lomdei Torah as well as the five industrial zones providing the city parnossoh.

Gathering figures on the city—the number of gemachim, for instance—is no easy task. Overflowing with Torah and chessed the city offers everything and the light of Torah shines on other locations near and far.

Chatzor Galilit

Region: Galilee

Population: 9,500

Demographic composition: Mixed

Representation: 2 UTJ councilmen, 1 Shas

In Chatzor Galilit about 190 chareidi families live in Hakiryah Hachassidit, founded by HaRav Osher Neuhaus and R' Eliyohu Levy, a contractor from Jerusalem. HaRav Neuhaus, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Sifsei Tzaddik with its 120 talmidim, makes Hakiryah his home. Another 50 families live in the rest of the town.

Most of Hakiryah's residents are Gur Chassidim. The avreichim among them are especially active in the shiurim given throughout the town, which has 22 botei knesses. The town's general population is considered traditional and the chareidi residents are on good terms with the head of the city council. With the exception of the local McDonald's restaurant, the town closes for Shabbos. The road to the Kiryah remains open on Shabbos, but nobody drives on it out of respect for the chareidi residents.

The Kiryah operates educational facilities for every age, including a 170-student seminary that draws girls from the entire area. Approximately 50 avreichim study in the Kiryah's two kollelim. Another three kollelim are located in other parts of the town.

Chazon Yechezkel

A community consisting primarily of Slonim Chassidim. A nice kehilloh living in peace with the Sephardic kehilloh there. The yeshiva has 120 talmidim.


The chareidi community in Dimona has faded. The remaining chareidi residents are scattered in different parts of the town, making communal life difficult to organize. Some 300 students are enrolled in the local Beis Yaakov school and yeshiva ketanoh.


Region: South

Population: 50,000

Demographic composition: Secular, traditional, religious

Representation: None

Is there a chareidi kehilloh in Eilat? Yes, but . . .

There is no cheder in Eilat but there is a talmud Torah with 500 students. A talmud Torah this size needs teachers, so a kollel is being started. With just a few dozen chareidi families there is no centralized housing area for them, but there are several glatt kosher restaurants and stores.


Region: Central

Population: 30,000

Demographic composition: Chareidi, religious

Representation: 11 chareidi councilmen, Council Head Rabbi Tzvi Cohen

Except for a few hundred religious (dati) families all of Elad is chareidi and the population is expected to reach 40,000 by the end of 2005 and eventually 50,000. The town is located near the Trans-Israel Highway south of Rosh Ha'ayin and east of Petach Tikva.

Elad boasts 65 kindergartens, dozens of talmudei Torah, girls' schools and kollelim and a handful of yeshivas. The Ministry of Housing and Construction has built 19 permanent botei knesses, a large gym and events hall, a youth club, a library, a women's learning center and a community center. Dozens of temporary botei knesses also dot the town.

For the past five consecutive years Elad has been awarded five stars by the Council for a Beautiful Israel and in 2004 won the Beauty Banner.

During a recent visit Interior Minister Ophir Pines pledged to get Elad recognized as an official city. Local officials are also asking for additional lands for expansion projects.


Region: Ben Shemen

Population: 700

Demographic composition: Religious and chareidi

Moshav Gamzu is an agricultural association set up by Agudas Yisroel in 5710 (1950). The 71-farm moshav doubled its population in recent years by absorbing new families and second-generation families. The moshav is located on the edge of the Ben Shemen Forest at the intersections of Highways 1, 6 and 443.

Gamzu has a small chareidi contingent. The moshav maintains botei knesses, a mikveh, a clinic, kindergartens and more.

Ganei Tikva

Region: Central

Population: 12,500

Demographic composition: Secular, chareidi

Representation: 1 Degel HaTorah councilman, 1 Shas

Located between Kiryat Ono and Petach Tikva, Ganei Tikva was founded in 5709 (1949) as a town for new immigrants. Twenty years later the Admor of Sassov started Kiryat Yismach Moshe, a chareidi neighborhood that now has over a hundred chareidi families.

The town has a yeshiva and the majority of its avreichim study in the local kollel. Each of them delivers a shiur in a different location to strengthen Torah life throughout the town. The kehilloh is headed by HaRav Menachem Aryeh Schlesinger, author of Ayil Meshulash.

Ganei Tikva has a talmud Torah with 150 students and a Bais Yaakov school with 200 students, including students from the surrounding communities. Some Ganei Tikva children are enrolled in Bnei Brak schools.

Ganei Tikva has 20 botei knesses. Kiryat Yismach Moshe residents feel a special sense of community often lacking in large, crowded cities. "Over the years we have succeeded in creating a pleasant, comfortable atmosphere with all of the town's residents," says Rabbi Gilad Beniel, Degel HaTorah's representative in the local council. "Everyone lives in harmony and we are on very good terms with the council head, Avishai Levine."

Givat Ze'ev

Region: North Jerusalem

Population: 10,000

Demographic composition: Secular, religious and chareidi

Located northwest of Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood Givat Ze'ev was founded in 5741 (1981). Most of the population is comprised of young secular couples, but there is also a small core of religious residents, as well as 40 chareidi families living in Kiryat HaRan, which HaRav Tzvi Weissfish started 14 years ago based on instructions from HaRav Chaim Kanievsky. The avreichim learn at Kollel HaRan during the day and engage in outreach activities in the evening. These activities led to the founding of a talmud Torah and a Beis Yaakov school, and convinced 40 local non-chareidi families to send their sons to a chareidi yeshiva ketanoh.

The Admor of Karlin and 70 of his Chassidim also make Givat Ze'ev their home.

End of Part I


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