Times Zeroes in on Israeli Haredim

New York's best Jewish newspaper illuminates the dynamics of Haredi life.
November 2, 2007
A Modern Marketplace for Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox

BEIT SHEMESH, Israel — When Larry Pinczower switches on his cellphone, the seal of a rabbinate council appears. Unable to send text messages, take photographs or connect to the Internet, his phone is a religiously approved adaptation to modernity by the ultra-Orthodox sector of Israeli life.

More than 10,000 numbers for phone sex, dating services and the like are blocked, and rabbinical overseers ensure that the lists are up to date. Calls to other kosher phones are less than 2 cents a minute, compared with 9.5 cents for normal phones. But on the Sabbath any call costs $2.44 a minute, a steep religious penalty.

“You pay less and you’re playing by the rules,” Mr. Pinczower, 39, said. “You’re using technology but in a way that maintains religious integrity.”

A community of at least 800,000 people — out of 5.4 million Jews living in Israel, a country of 7.1 million — the ultra-Orthodox, though comparatively poor, form a distinct, growing and important market, and Israeli companies are paying attention. While there are rabbinical strictures against watching television, using computers for leisure, immodest attire and unsupervised mixing of men and women, the Israeli market economy has adjusted in creative and surprising ways.

Some 60 percent of ultra-Orthodox men do not work regular jobs, preferring religious study. More than 50 percent live below the poverty line and get state allowances, compared with 15 percent of the rest of the population, and most families have six or seven children, said Momi Dahan, an economist at the School of Public Policy at Hebrew University.

But because they live in tight communities like this one, and obey their rabbis, they have significant power in the marketplace, as well as in the voting booth, said Rafi Melnick, dean of the Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya......

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"New York's best Jewish newspaper illuminates the dynamics of Haredi life."

It's a Jewish newspaper? Hmmm.

I'm not used to hearing "the Times" and "illuminates" in the same sentence.