Israel’s Next Major Social Challenge – Haredi Internal “Aliyah”

This article was commissioned by Makom for the second Global Jewish Forum, and is edited from in-depth consultation with experts in the field.


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The relationship between the State of Israel and its Haredi population is of concern to the entire Jewish world. From the economic and social instability of an exponentially growing community of non-productive citizens, to the unsavory headlines about extreme and violent behavior, it is clear that a policy of laissez-faire can no longer be tolerated.

Yet how might we characterise the problem facing us? Is this a fundamental issue threatening the Jewish and liberal identity of the State of Israel? Or is this an issue of failed public policy that needs to be re-thought? (more…)

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Childhood – 35

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Israelis who define themselves as “chiloni” (non-religious) nevertheless choose to undergo traditional Jewish lifecycle events, circumcising their sons, celebrating bar/bar mitzvah ceremonies and weddings, and burying their dead according to traditional practice. Some of this participation is enforced by Israeli law (more on that in the lessons on marriage and death), but the rituals of childhood are entered into voluntarily (at least by the parents…). While the circumcision ceremony has remained largely identical to the traditional one, the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony has evolved and changed – perhaps because it is a relative newcomer on the scene. Other ceremonies contain different mixes of tradition and new invention.

In terms of the Israel connection in life cycle observances in the Diaspora, the liturgy of the brit, and of bar/bat mitzvah, does not contain explicit references to Israel or the hope of return. However, pidyon haben is wholly bound up with preserving the role of the kohanim and thus serves as a reminder of the Temple and its centrality.


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Youth and coming of age in Israel – 36

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Many of the “founding fathers (and mothers)” of modern Israel came to the country as twenty-somethings (or younger), in the Second Aliyah (1904-1914) and the Third Aliyah (1919-1923). While they were small in number, their cultural influence was far-reaching and long-lasting, and it is perhaps largely due to their experience that Israel’s self-image is that of a “young” society, a society whose youth are its heroes and its leaders. There is an ironic reversal here of the traditional respect accorded to age and wisdom. And needless to say, this self-image affects many aspects of cultural life, from child-rearing to education to politics – not always in constructive ways. Another factor contributing to this youth-centeredness is the central place of defense in the collective consciousness – the near-universal conscription of both genders means that the army is a major rite of passage and a huge cultural influence.

This unit will examine the perception of – and the experience of – youth in Israeli society in several important contexts. The materials and background are presented straightforwardly – not as a comparative examination with the North American Jewish experience; however, exploring the comparison is recommended as a useful and effective educational method for using this material.


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Women in Israel – 38

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The formation of the modern State of Israel occurred in parallel to the evolution of women’s movements. While its roots are traced to the French and American Revolution, feminism emerged as a social and political force at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th . This is the period in which Zionism developed and Jews began to settle the land of Israel hoping to create a Jewish State. Since both Zionism and feminism “grew up” together, the early Zionist experience and the State of Israel provide an interesting case study of the changing roles and rights of women. Unique aspects of Israeli society, such as the central role of the defense forces and the mosaic of different populations highlight the complexity of the issues surrounding women’s rights. As a Jewish State, Israel has had to address the disparity between the traditional role of women in Judaism and Jewish law and contemporary concepts of equality. Conversely, the issue and development of women’s rights in Israel can illustrate the social, economic, cultural and military issues that characterize the Jewish State. In this lesson we try to give a survey of women’s roles and status from the early Zionists until today.


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