Israel’s Haredi Future

Israel’s Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) community is extraordinarily diverse in comprising a vast number of sects, ranging from the very small to those numbering in the hundreds of thousands. While the majority view in the Haredi community is non-Zionist and pro-theocratic are the minority Anti-Zionists opposed to theocracy which they deem to be against the will of God as they only want theocracy once the Mashiach (messiah) arrives. The minority Zionist Haredi community however is pro-theocratic. There are also Haredim such as the Bostoner Hasidim (the Boston Hasidic subdenomination of Orthodox Judaism) who endorse liberal democracy. 

There is no doubt that there are other Haredim who support liberal democracy although they are a small minority indeed. However, this is not an insignificant question considering that there will be close to 40 million Haredim in Israel at the end of this century. Israel’s Haredi demographic revolution (the Haredi population doubles every 16 years) means that Israel will have to abandon liberal democracy in favor of a liberal semi-democracy where secularism reigns supreme as in 20th century Kemalist Turkey.

It is essential to nationalize the independent Haredi system of education in Israel and provide all Haredi students with a pro-liberal and pro-democratic education. Israel needs to raise a new generation of Haredim who cherish liberalism and democracy. In fact liberalism and democracy should not be seen as incompatible with the values of Haredi Judaism. 

The Knesset under Israel’s new system of government will need to be eventually predominantly populated by Haredi intellectual leaders and hence the need to raise a new generation of liberal Haredi leaders. 

This is not taking place at present and the necessary and drastic changes to the Haredi equation in Israel can probably not happen as long as Israel remains a liberal democracy. Nevertheless should the cultivation of Haredi intellectual leaders who are liberal and democratic be an urgent issue of concern for the State of Israel.

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization

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