Photo Credit: Nati Shohat / Flash 90
Haredi women work at the Malam Group IT company in the Haredi City of Beitar Illit.

Only 42% of Haredi Israelis hold a driver’s license (compared with 81% of other Jewish Israelis), although there has been a significant rise in the number of Haredi women with a driver’s license, from 21% in 2008 to 29% in 2016. Only 41% of Haredi households own a car (compared with 79% of other Jewish households), though this represents a significant rise since 2003, when the figure was just 31%. These are some of the remarkable changes taking place in Israel’s Haredi community as recorded by the 2017 Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Index.

The report, prepared by a joint research team from the Israel Democracy Institute and Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, shows significant changes that have occurred in Haredi society in recent years, and indicates a growing integration of the Haredim into mainstream Israeli society – alongside sustained cultural isolationism.

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The picture that emerges from the report is one of a continued increase in the numbers of Haredi students in the higher education system, a rise in the number of those taking high-school matriculation exams, and positive trends in employment (though these have slowed over the last year). In addition, the report reveals the continued existence of gaps in income and in tax returns between Haredi Israelis and the general population.

This year, the number of Haredi Israelis rose above one million for the first time, reaching 12% of the population. By 2030, the Haredim are expected to reach 16% of the total population, and by 2065 one-third of Israel’s overall population and 40% of its Jewish population.

The Haredi population is also relatively young: 58% are below age 19, compared with 30% of the rest of the Jewish population. At the same time, there has been a decline in the fertility rate of Haredi women, from 7.5 offspring per Haredi woman in 2003 to 6.9 today (compared with 2.4 for other Jewish women, except for women living in Judea and Samaria settlements, which are considerably higher).

The marriage rate in the Haredi population stands at 82%, compared with 63% for the rest of the Jewish population. But there has been a rise in age at the time of marriage in recent years: in 2005, 61% of Haredi young adults ages 20 – 24 were married, now only 44% are. Also, in 2005, 76% of Haredi Israelis ages 20 – 29 were married, compared with only 67.5% in 2016. And so, while the marriage rate for Haredi women ages 20 – 29 was 80% in 2005, by 2016 it has dropped to 67%. A slight decline was also seen in the marriage rates for Haredi men over the same period, from 71% to 68%.

There are currently approximately 300,000 students in the Haredi education system, representing 18% of the student population in Israel. But the annual growth rate of the Haredi system has slowed from 4.2% in 2013 to 3.2% in 2016. By contrast, the annual growth rate of the Hebrew-language state school system has risen over the same period from 0.5% to 2.3%.

There are two possible explanations for this phenomenon: the falling birth rate in the Haredi sector; and the decline in the appeal of Haredi schools for families which are not explicitly Haredi and in the past sent their kids to Haredi school.

The poverty rate among Haredi Israelis fell to 45% in 2016, its lowest level in more than a decade. This is seen as the result of increased Haredi integration into the workforce, along with increased government support.

But over the last years 2006 – 2016, there has been a decline in home ownership in the Haredi sector, from 79% in 2006 to 75% in 2016, while ownership rates in the rest of the Jewish population have remained steady. This is an indication of economic difficulty, as well as social change processes that have made renting a home rather than buying more acceptable for young Haredi couples.

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