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February 18, 2011 10:07 am

Opinion: Ultra-Orthodox Give Israelis a Jewish Headache

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JI Daily – A prospect terrifying to secular Israelis and Zionists worldwide has been the rapid growth of the Jewish state’s ultra-Orthodox (haredi) community. Given the stranglehold of haredi political parties on recent coalition governments, and the encroachments by non-Zionist haredi clerics upon Israel’s chief rabbinate, once religiously moderate and firmly Zionist, the fear is not entirely irrational.

Birthrates among haredim are more than quadruple the national Jewish average; the large majority do not serve in the army; the male unemployment rate is at an astounding 70 percent; and the ultra-Orthodox community subsists largely on a variety of government welfare programs and Jewish aid from abroad.

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