20 December 2011

Israel's other demographic problem

The Palestinian situation gets all the international press coverage, but an article in The National Interest suggests that the demographics of the ultraorthodox population represents an equally troublesome "time bomb."
A recent report compiled by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics makes some projections looking out nearly fifty years, to 2059. The report separates out for the first time in any such official public reckoning the growth of the ultra-Orthodox population, which has a significantly higher birth rate than other Israeli Jews. The ultra-Orthodox currently make up about ten percent of Israeli society but by 2059 are projected to constitute over thirty percent.

The disproportionate growth of the Haredim, as the ultra-Orthodox are also called, has severe implications for Israeli society and the Israeli economy. About 60 percent of ultra-Orthodox men do not work for a living. They spend their time in religious study at yeshivas while they and their fast-growing families subsist on government stipends. This already constitutes a major burden on the remainder of Israelis and is a contributor to the economic discomfort that stimulated widespread demonstrations earlier this year... The ultra-Orthodox also are not subject to the same military service requirements as other Israeli Jews, constituting another area where the burden is all the greater on the others. Then there is the effect on social mores and freedoms. The growing influence of the ultra-Orthodox has already raised issues regarding the status and liberties of Israeli women. A further expansion of that influence will make Israel an ever more illiberal place.

Clearly these trends present Israel with a very serious challenge to its vitality and even to its survival as a society recognizable and acceptable to most of its current citizens. A major question is whether the privileges and influence of the Haredim can be curbed before they become so large a proportion of the population that curbing is no longer politically thinkable... When an ultra-Orthodox rabbi suggested last year that full-time, government-financed religious study should be reserved only for exceptionally promising scholars who are groomed to be rabbis or religious judges and that other ultra-Orthodox men should “go out and earn a living,” he was so vehemently denounced by his own political party, the ultra-Orthodox Shas, that he had to be assigned a bodyguard.
More at the link, via The Daily Dish.


  1. Being exempt from military service seems a bit of having your cake and eating it. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Israel's existence, taking the carrot with none of the stick seems biterly selfish. No many resent them.

  2. Are these the yobs that are responsible for the recent stonings of "immodestly dressed" women? It seems like all religions have their hardcore zealots who will stop at nothing to impose their narrow, usually misogynist and xenophobic/racist views on everyone else. I'm no supporter of current Israeli policies, but I seriously hope they get a handle on these characters before they make things in the middle east even worse. Can you imagine these guys with their fingers on the triggers of Israel's nuclear arsenal? Yikes!

  3. It doesn't matter if they're Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. Religious fanatics are boils on the body of society. And in this case, leeches as well.


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