Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Av 5765 - August 17, 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, M. Chevroni and M. Kleiman

Part IV (Final)

The chareidi public is growing, bli ayin hora, and meanwhile the secular population is diminishing, though slowly. The trendlines are very clear.

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.

A Central Bureau for Statistics 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 but non- religious population 24 percent, the secular population 35 percent and the remaining 17 percent did not respond. These are self- described categories. Many who describe themselves as secular nonetheless fast on Yom Kippur and are knowledgeable about aspects of the Jewish heritage, for example. Outside of Israel, those who describe themselves as secular are often indistinguishable from non- Jews.

According to estimates, the chareidi sector is growing at a rate of 25 percent every six years. According to 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.


The Chareidi Road Map

On the chareidi "road map" of the country the following locations appear highlighted: Beitar Illit, Modi'in Illit, Elad, Kiryat Ye'arim (Telz Stone), Rechasim, Emanuel, Tel Tzion, Beit Shemesh, Ofakim, Netivot, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Bat Yam, Petach Tikva, Be'er Sheva, Yeruchom, Dimona, Haifa, Hadera, Tiberius, Carmiel, Migdal Ha'emek, Chatzor Haglilit, Ramat Gan, Givatayim, Rechovot, Tzfat, Natzeret, the Haifa Bay suburbs, Galilee settlements, Acco, Nahariya, Zichron Yaakov, Herzliya, Ra'anana, Ganei Tikva, Kfar Saba, Rosh Ha'ayin, Sderot, Kiryat Gat, Tifrach, Arad — and even Tel Aviv, where there are still chareidi residents to fill the botei knesses and the glorious yeshivas of the city, which used to be home to much more important communities.

In some of these places the chareidi sector constitutes a large proportion of the total population. In other places it influences the general population, like a lighthouse radiating to the non-religious neighborhoods. This is the case, for example, in Rechasim, Netivot, Sderot, Tzfat, Carmiel, Migdal Ha'emek and elsewhere.

This project is a sort of service broadcast for the chareidim "di bechol asar ve'asar," a "road map" for every young couple contemplating its first steps out in the world before deciding where to settle down.

Beitar Illit — Fast-Growing City

Rabbi Yitzchok Pindrus, mayor of Beitar Illit and chairman of the Forum of Chareidi Authorities at the Center for Local Government, says that while the majority of cities in Israel posted a low growth rate in the number of residents and in some cases even decreases in the number of residents, chareidi cities—including Jerusalem and Bnei Brak—are growing rapidly.

"These figures are added to the Central Bureau for Statistics forecast of impressive growth in chareidi education [by] the year 5769," said Mayor Pindrus. "This trend is growing stronger from year to year as the chareidi public grows stronger and grows in giant strides, and this is also very clear proof that all of the attempts to impose budget cuts on the chareidi sector achieve the opposite— Vechaasher ye'anu oso kein yirbeh vechein yifrotz.

"The growth figures require the government to prepare accordingly and to provide for the needs of the natural growth of the chareidi sector by building hundreds of classrooms, public facilities and development funding," he added.

The CBS figures reveal that in 2004, chareidi cities posted the largest growth rates around the country. The population of Jerusalem, Israel's biggest city, rose 1.9 percent, from 693,200 residents to 706,400 residents. The population of Bnei Brak also rose 1.9 percent from 139,600 residents to 142,300 residents.

Modi'in Illit showed a growth rate of 12.7 percent and its population rose from 24,300 residents to 27,400 residents. Beitar Illit grew by 8.6 percent, its population rising from 22,900 residents to 24,900 residents.

Elad jumped by 19.1 percent from 19,000 residents to 22,600 residents, as a lot of new neighborhoods were completed. Rechasim grew by 2.8 percent from 8,100 residents to 8,300 residents. Kiryat Ye'arim (Telz Stone) grew by 1.2 percent from 2,900 residents to 3,000 residents. Emanuel grew by 5.3 percent from 2,500 residents to 2,600 residents.

Mention should also be made of Beit Shemesh, whose growth was primarily due to the migration of new chareidi families. The population grew by 8.6 percent, rising from 57,000 to 61,900 residents.

Rabbi Moshe Gafni, secretary of Degel HaTorah: Degel HaTorah Defeated Shinui in the Local Authority Elections

Since Degel HaTorah's founding (1988), within a relatively short time, the party had a noticeable impact on all of the cities and towns of Eretz Yisroel. First of all, in chareidi towns young Degel HaTorah representatives have turned into successful council heads. In places like Jerusalem as well, years ago it would have been unrealistic for the head of the municipality who runs for election and wins the mayor's office to be chareidi, but now this has happened without anyone shouting much about the matter— "ein peretz ve'ein yotzeis ve'ein tzevochoh birechovoseinu."

In these times of such major anti-chareidi provocation on the part of Shinui, a chareidi mayor was elected in Jerusalem and so far everyone is happy, both the chareidi and secular residents.

The other chareidi local authorities with Degel HaTorah representatives, including the young representatives, are boruch Hashem very successful in running the cities.

And now to turn to the rest of the country: In each and every location, including places that had no chareidi representation in the past and the places where Degel HaTorah has not yet managed to place an official representative in the local authority but the local Degel HaTorah representative works from the outside for the public, everybody knows the Degel HaTorah representatives there are active to help all residents, certainly for the sake of their ruchniyus but also for their gashmiyus too. The Degel Hatorah activists are an address for every citizen to turn to.

The representatives are active in every area of life. They assist in the founding of educational institutions in places where the idea of chareidi education was nonexistent. Nahariya, for instance. I was there not long ago. Large schools run by Keren Nesivos Moshe have been started there with hundreds of boys and girls enrolled. The same thing is taking place in many towns.

In the past if someone had suggested this, people would have dismissed him as a dreamer. Everywhere in Eretz Yisroel, in big cities, small cities, towns and moshavim, Degel HaTorah activists and representatives are at the fore.

Today, there are chareidi schools and in many places there are yeshivas and kollelim, welfare and chessed activities, Yad Sarah, Ezer Mitzion and others. Almost everywhere in the country one can find activities by the chareidi public with Degel HaTorah and Agudas Yisroel representation, and in most places we walk hand-in-hand — which I hope will continue.

Today it is clear to everyone that since Degel HaTorah representatives are younger—and the same holds true in the party ranks—party activity is more visible and of higher quality. The activity is run cooperatively by all of the representatives and it is very successful.

To this must be added the issue of chareidi settlements in Beitar Illit, Modi'in Illit, Elad, Rechasim, Ofakim, Beit Shemesh, Ashdod and so forth and so on. This can be seen everywhere. The chareidi towns are growing and developing by leaps and bounds. Even in the places not defined as chareidi towns, one sees more and more people, more and more families whose way of life is directed by the Torah and whose children are educated to Torah and mitzvos.

Now the various systems are administered in a way that just ten years ago was the lot of a small sector concentrated in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak and a few other places, that could be counted on one hand. Today there is no town where you cannot find kosher lemehadrin products, talmudei Torah, shiurim and activities for girls and boys. I travel around the country and I see this everywhere.

There was a belief held by the early heads of secular Zionism that the older generation would die out to be replaced by a young generation of Israelis alienated from Torah and mitzvas, choliloh — but in fact the opposite has happened. The hold of the secularists on every city and town in Israel is weakening and the chareidi public is growing not only due to natural increase but also due to the addition of more and more people in places who, in many cases, had no previous ties to Torah and mitzvas.

The neighborhoods of South Tel Aviv, for instance, were completely secular a few decades ago. Today these are places with a chareidi public at one level or another. Or the town of Kadima in Samaria, once a completely secular area, now has chareidi schools. Even in Eilat there is a large chareidi sector. In the past, these were thought of as places where chareidim did not set foot. We are seeing the same in Yeruchom, Be'er Sheva, Netivot, Ashkelon, Maalot, Shlomi and Tiberius. We are seeing the renewal of a young generation.

In Tiberius, for example, I recently saw a huge sign on a beis knesses saying the electricity was "Shabbas electricity kosher lemehadrin." Once upon a time, would anyone have dreamed of such a thing?

This is found from Dan to Eilat. So it comes as no surprise that today a battle is being waged against the chareidi public, using every legitimate and illegitimate means in an effort to influence the general public not to follow the chareidi ways, watching in frustration as the public draws closer and closer to Torah and mitzvas and aspiring to lead the lifestyle that all of our community already leads.

It is premature to predict which places will undergo the kind of political transformation that took place in Jerusalem, for instance, but there are definitely places where the chareidi public has grown significantly. This is apparent in Ashdod, Beit Shemesh, Netivot, Ofakim. Clearly this is a process that has gained momentum in recent years.

We saw this in the last municipal elections. The distribution of United Torah Jewry in general and Degel HaTorah in particular is entirely different from what it was in previous elections. During the past year this process has not stopped but has accelerated and the results are very clear. The number of Degel HaTorah representatives increased significantly in the last elections. In Netanya, for example, where there was no party representative, today we have two mandates, and the city is certainly not considered a chareidi city. This is a transformation.

When we face off against Shinui in secular cities we are bigger than they. In Ra'anana, for example, the Degel HaTorah list that supported received two representatives while Shinui received just one. In Tel Aviv, which is considered a truly secular city, we received more votes than Shinui. We can say unequivocally: Degel HaTorah defeated Shinui in the local authorities elections all over the country.

This means that if we do a survey to determine whether the public is with us or with them and the municipal elections symbolize the direct tie between the citizen and his representative, even the secular public said yes to Degel Hatorah and no to Shinui. And when speaking of a culture war, the past elections proved we have the upper hand.

Ramat Hasharon

Region: Central


The rov and central spiritual figure of Ramat Hasharon, HaRav Yaakov Eidelstein, started the city's first kollel 35 years ago. Today Ramat Hasharon has two chareidi kindergartens, day-care programs, a Bais Yaakov school and a talmud Torah. There are even two bein hazmanim yeshivas. Most of the city's 100 chareidi families live on the eastern end of the city in the Mizrachi and Morasha neighborhoods.


Region: Haifa

Population: 20,000

Demographic composition: Chareidi, traditional, secular

Representation: 9 councilmen; Head Councilman Rabbi Yitzchok Reich

With 80 percent of the population chareidi, Rechasim is known as the Torah Realm of the North. The crowning gem is Yeshivas Knesses Chizkiyohu, one of the largest and oldest yeshivas in Eretz Yisroel. Founded by some of the Torah world's most illustrious figures, today the staff includes the rosh yeshiva HaRav Dovid Yitzchok Mann, the mashgiach HaRav Dov Yaffeh, and the nossi and dedicated manager since its founding HaRav Dovid Mishkovsky. The Ashkenazi moro de'asra, HaRav Yaakov Meir Zonenfeld, serves as rosh yeshiva of the yeshiva ketanoh, and the Sephardic moro de'asra, HaRav Moshe Tenami, is director of the Or Chadash educational complex.

Rechasim has three talmudei Torah, a school for boys and girls operated by Shuvu, a Beis Yaakov school with 800 students, a high school with 200 students and Shiras Miriam, an extension of the seminary in Ofakim.

Rechasim is growing and is zoned for another 3,000 housing units. Avreichim around the country are already taking an interest in Givah Gimmel, where sales began after Pesach.


Region: Coastal Plain

Population: 110,000

Demographic composition: Secular, religious, chareidi

Representation: 1 Degel HaTorah, 1 Agudas Yisroel, 2 Shas

One-third of Rechovot's population is religious or chareidi. The entire chareidi population lives in the southeast part of the city: 180 families in Kiryat Kretshnif, 100 families in Kiryat Vishnitz and the main chareidi section on Rechov Ezra and the surrounding area.

The city has tree main botei knesses, chareidi schools for boys and girls, several kollelim, three yeshivos ketanos, and Yeshivas Beis Ariel and Yeshivas Meor HaTalmud, where the rosh yeshiva is HaRav Avrohom Yitzchok Hakohen Kook, the brother of the moro de'asra, HaRav Simchoh Hakohen Kook.

Rishon Letzion

Region: Central

Population: 230,000

Demographic composition: Secular, traditional, chareidi

Representation: 2 Shas representatives

Rishon Letzion began as a small settlement over 120 years ago and today it is the fourth largest city in the country, right behind Haifa. The local chareidi kehilloh is centered in Kiryat Calev, which was founded dozens of years ago by the Admor of Calev. The Kirya offers botei knesses, talmudei Torah, a girls' school, kindergartens and various services.

Three well-known yeshivas are also located in the city: Yeshivas Knesses Meir, a yeshiva ketanoh founded by HaRav Meir Chodosh zt"l, a yeshiva gedoloh for Belz Chassidim and a yeshiva ketanoh for Gur Chassidim.

Chareidi residents, mostly Sephardim and baalei teshuvoh, can be found in various neighborhoods. A small group of avreichim formed a kehilloh in Ramat Eliyahu, where they are active in outreach work. A Bais Yaakov school was recently opened in the neighborhood.

Rishon Letzion has at least 150 botei knesses, a talmud Torah, a girls' school operated by Chinuch Atzmai, dozens of daily shiurim and several Daf Yomi shiurim.

Rosh Ha'ayin

Region: Central

Population: 40,000

Demographic composition: Secular, religious, chareidi

Representation: 2 Shas

Rosh Ha'ayin was founded in 5709 (1949) by Yemenite immigrants brought to Israel during Operation On Wings of Eagles. In the 1990s the city's image began to change when other population groups began to arrive. Rosh Ha'ayin is home to some 2,000 chareidi families headed by the rov of the city, HaRav Azariyoh Basis, and seven neighborhood rabbonim. Bnei Torah can be seen in every part of the city. There are also wide-ranging outreach programs.

Rosh Ha'ayin has 30 kindergartens for the chareidi sector, two talmudei Torah, one called Be'ikvei Hatzon and the other run by Chinuch Atzmai, a Bais Yaakov school for girls, 15 kollelim, 50 daily shiurim and three large botei knesses.


Region: Northern Negev

Population: 30,000

Demographic composition: Traditional, secular, chareidi

Representation: 1 Shas councilman

With Kassam rockets falling periodically, Sderot is not luring many new residents these days. Most of the 70-80 chareidi families in the city are associated with Shas and many of them are baalei teshuvoh. Sderot has five Agudas Yisroel kindergartens, a Chinuch Atzmai school and a talmud Torah.

Tel Aviv

Region: Central

Population: 360,000

Demographic composition: Secular, religious, chareidi

Representation: 2 UTJ councilmen, 3 Shas, 1 NRP

Israel's second largest city is no longer a secular stronghold. In the recent elections United Torah Jewry won more votes in Tel Aviv than Shinui. The city has 600 botei knesses and 5,000 chareidi families.

Kehillas Knesses Mordechai, headed by HaRav Mordechai Auerbach, has 150 families. Gur has a 250-family kehilloh in North Tel Aviv near Yeshivas Chiddushei HaRim, another smaller kehilloh also in North Tel Aviv and a 150-family kehilloh in the downtown area with no less than four botei knesses! Belz has an 80-family kehilloh not far from Rechov Sheinken, Tel Aviv's bohemian district, and operates a successful outreach organization called Shorashim.

The city has dozens of kollelim, several yeshivas, numerous Chinuch Atzmai schools, a Bais Yaakov school, the renowned Talmud Torah Yesodei HaTorah and a school for secular students started by Councilman Rabbi Naftoli Lobert of UTJ.

Tel Mond

Region: Sharon

Population: 9,000

Demographic composition: Mixed

Tel Mond has a small, financially-established chareidi community of approximately 100 families. The kehilloh has a beis knesses and a kollel with 25 avreichim. The others work. The majority of their wives also work, primarily at Ne'urim, an institution for the retarded.

Three Chinuch Atzmai kindergartens operate in Tel Mond, but there is no chareidi school. Most of the children study in Netanya. With the exception of one neighborhood, all of the housing in Tel Mond consists of single-family homes.

Tel Tzion

Region: North of Jerusalem

Population: 2,400

Demographic composition: Chareidi

When a certain company went in search of a pastoral location to build a chareidi yeshiva, among the options was a site near Kochav Yaakov. The initiative led to the construction of a housing project for the chareidi public now slated to contain a total of 7,000 apartment units and 35,000 residents.

The first 50 families moved in during the spring of 5760 (2000). Today there are 500 families and new apartments are constantly being built and sold. The plans call for the construction of religious facilities, schools and a 75-acre park with playgrounds, forests, a promenade, a bike path and water lines.

Tel Tzion still carries the name of the company behind the initiative but when the population grows large enough for the setup of a local council it will receive a fixed name of its own. Municipal services are currently being provided through the Binyamin Regional Council.


Region: Northern Negev

Population: 2,000

Demographic composition: Chareidi

Gaining entry to Tifrach is not easy. Only 10-15 new families are allowed in every year—mostly Yeshivas Tushiyoh alumni who want to remain close to Beis Hashem all year round. As a result there is no construction in Tifrach, but one can rent an apartment and then jump at an opportunity to buy should an apartment be offered for sale.

Tifrach was started by Satmar Chassidim from Hungary in 5709 (1949). Most of the founders were Holocaust survivors who had spent time in the transit camps and sought a place of their own. They had little interest in politics but knew how to stand firm when it came to matters that touched close to home. Thus they had the moshav transferred from Mapai to Agudas Yisroel—a rare act in those days. Under adverse conditions and in a hostile environment they managed to build a successful moshav and were later joined by Moroccan immigrants.

The place acquired its special character when the yeshiva was founded on Erev Pesach 37 years ago by HaRav Yaakov Friedman. A decade later the rosh yeshiva, HaRav Aviezer Piltz, arrived. At the time, the yeshiva numbered 200 bochurim. When another yeshiva left Netanya to join Tifrach, the yeshiva received a boost and today there are 500 bochurim.


Region: Kinneret

Population: 80,000

Demographic composition: Mixed

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

Tiberius is often known as a resort town, but the city is also home to 1,000 chareidi families, including some 300 avreichim. Concentrated in Kiryat Shmuel and Shikun Daled the city's chareidi community was begun about 15 years ago, and not without a fight. Adding to its many achievements since then the community recently inaugurated a Shabbos generator.

Today the more notable institutions include Yeshivas Toras Meir, Yeshivas Or Elchonon, Yeshivas Ateres Yitzchok and Yeshivas Ateres Mordechai. Talmud Torah Zichron Meir and Talmud Torah Tiferes Tiveria have about 700 talmidim each.

The city's 12 kollelim sponsor three Daf Yomi shiurim that draw about 70 participants. The avreichim also take part in outreach programs. Every year on arvei chagim HaRav Mordechai Gross arrives from Bnei Brak to deliver halochoh shiurim to the local avreichim and hundreds of other participants.

Three of the ten members of the local religious council represent Degel HaTorah. In the coming year, Degel HaTorah representatives are slated to enter the city council as part of a rotation agreement signed with Shas. Deputy Mayor R' Eliyahu Zigdon has earned praise for his extensive work for the sake of the chareidi public.


Region: North

Population: 30,000

Demographic composition: Mixed, chareidi, religious

Representation: 3 UTJ and Shas councilman; 9 of 15 councilmen are observant; religious mayor, Yishai Maimon

An estimated 1,200 chareidi families live in Tzfat and a majority of first graders are either chareidi or religious. In recent years a number of American chareidi families have moved to the city. The main Lithuanian Torah institutions are Kollel Lev Simchoh, headed by the designated moro de'asra, HaRav Mordechai Dov Kaplan, the son of the former moro de'asra, HaRav Simchah Kaplan, and the Nachalas Naftoli yeshiva and kollel, headed by HaRav Shmuel Avigdor Feivelson and his son, HaRav Boruch.

A Torah-based science school for secular students was started by Lev L'Achim. A girls' seminary run by Rebbetzin Kaplan draws students from the entire Northern Region. The Alshich School, operated by Chinuch Atzmai, has 400 students and the local Bais Yaakov school has 200 students.

Young couples looking for an inexpensive apartment can buy in Tzfat and rent out the property at a good rate should they decide to move. "A $65,000 apartment rents for $350," says a member of the local kehilloh.

Since the completion of the Elifelet Interchange, travel time to and from the city has been significantly reduced.


Region: Coastal Plain

Population: 30,000

Demographic composition: Mixed

Yavneh was founded between Ashdod and Tel Aviv in 5709 (1949). Though Yavneh and neighboring towns Gan Yavneh, Gedera and Nes Tziona lack a genuine chareidi kehilloh Kollel Michkan Chaviv, headed by HaRav Daniel Ben-Abu, serves as a lighthouse for the city and its surroundings, encouraging more and more local families to send their boys to yeshiva.

Chinuch Atzmai runs several institutions in the area including a talmud Torah in Yavneh with 500 talmidim and the Bnos Leah School, both located in Yavneh.


Region: Central

Population: 21,000

Demographic composition: Mixed

Representation: 1 Shas councilmen

Located in the Ono Valley just outside Tel Aviv, Yehud was founded in 5708 (1948). Approximately 200 chareidi families live in the town with three kollelim in operation. The main kollel is headed by the rov of the city, HaRav Yonah Turchin. Some of its 90 avreichim are local residents and others commute from Bnei Brak. The avreichim are involved in outreach work, including shiurim given at the town's 30 botei knesses.

Yehud's chareidi students are enrolled in the local Chinuch Atzmai talmud Torah and the Bais Yaakov school.


Region: Negev

Population: 10,000

Chareidi families: 150

Demographic composition: Traditional, chareidi

Representation: 2 Degel HaTorah councilmen, 1 Shas

Yeruchom offers chareidi kindergartens, mechinoh classes and Mesilla Ba'aravah schools for boys and for girls headed by Rav Tzvi Friedlander. The pride of the city is Yeshivas Daas Chochmoh. Plans are in the works to build a huge neighborhood for the chareidi public, eventually including some 4,000 apartments. The price of a standard apartment has been announced at $52,000, with only $6,000 down. The new area is planned with all chareidi services to be in operation from the start. If successful, the new chareidi neighborhood will dominate the entire city. It is being built by Degel Hatorah's housing company, that has thousands of apartments of experience.

The city has several existing kollelim and the women work primarily in teaching. Community life in Yeruchom is dynamic and there are botei knesses for Jews of all backgrounds.


Region: North

Population: 100 families

Demographic composition: Traditional Sephardic population

Yokne'am Illit has a large baalei teshuvoh kehilloh centered around the Shuvu Elai institutions headed by HaRav Oded Siri. The close-knit community has a large beis medrash, a kollel, shiurim, kindergartens and a large Torah library for children and adults. A four- story Torah center is currently under construction.

Zichron Yaakov

Region: Northern Sharon

Population: 15,000

Demographic composition: Mixed

Representation: 1 Degel HaTorah councilman, 1 Shas

Zichron Yaakov has managed to preserve a small-town feel. The population is composed of three elements: the old-time founders living in the center of town who are mostly professional farmers, later settlers who came from North Africa during the large wave of aliya after the founding of the State, and the "bourgeoisie" who moved into the new neighborhoods—Givat Eden, Mul Hayekev and Neveh Habaron—to enjoy the special atmosphere and sea breeze Zichron Yaakov has to offer.

Then there is the chareidi sector, which is concentrated in Ramat Tzvi, the town's oldest housing development, and Chazon Ish, located opposite Neveh Habaron. Both neighborhoods were started in the 70s.

Zichron Yaakov has 30 botei knesses, kindergartens, chadorim, a Bais Yaakov school, a yeshiva ketanoh and a yeshiva gedoloh. The town has 6 or 7 kollelim with a total of 200 avreichim representing two-thirds of the chareidi community.

Relations between the chareidi community and the general population are considered good. Every Thursday night avreichim sit down to learn with other residents.

Those in search of a tranquil environment far from the bustle of the city can find it in Zichron Yaakov.


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