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December 30, 2021 4:00 pm

Internet Use Among Haredi Jews in Israel More Than Doubled Since 2008, Survey Finds

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avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Rabbi Akiva Street in the Israeli city of Bnei Brak, Dec. 3, 2010. Photo: Yiftah/Wikimedia Commons.

The percentage of Haredi Jews in Israel using the internet has grown more than two-fold since 2008, though online access for the community’s youth remains limited, according to a report published Thursday by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI).

“Despite public criticism regarding use of the internet, the data shows that two thirds of ultra-Orthodox Israelis are online,” wrote Dr. Gilad Malach and Dr. Lee Cahaner, the editors of the report. “Nevertheless, online behavior patterns among ultra-Orthodox users differs from how the internet is used by non-Haredi users.”

The Haredi community makes up about 13 percent of the Israeli population. Almost two-thirds, or 64 percent, said they use the internet, up from 28 percent in 2008, according to data presented in IDI’s report. In comparison, 93 percent of all other Jewish Israelis reported internet usage.

“The internet is used [by Haredim] primarily for pragmatic needs and not for social interactions, the users’ technical skills are relatively poor and appreciation for technical skills is low as well,” Malach and Cahaner noted.

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Sixty-two percent of Haredim said they prefer connecting to the internet through a home computer, even if they have access to mobile phones. Among other Jewish Israelis, 72 percent preferred using their mobile phones. About 61 percent of Haredim said they have a computer at home, compared with 88 percent of other Jewish Israelis.

E-mail was the most used application by Haredim (88 percent), ahead of information searches (73 percent), digital banking (62 percent), work purposes (58 percent), and services from government ministries (56 percent).

“Using the internet for social purposes is less common among ultra-Orthodox users, but no less than half of the ultra-Orthodox who do surf the internet are on social networks,” the report found.

Almost half, or 46 percent of the Haredi community, uses the WhatsApp messaging platform, compared with 97 percent of other Jews in Israel. Only 10 percent of Haredim use the internet to play games.

According to the survey, 60 percent of the community views digital skills as a basic need, compared with 92 percent of other Jewish Israelis.

“The appearance of COVID-19 in 2020 led to an increase in the number of applicants for professional and academic training, especially among ultra-Orthodox men. In the coming years we will know if this signifies a change in trend or an isolated incident,” Malach and Cahaner noted.

As 88 percent of Haredi parents restrict their children’s online access, only 13 percent of community members under the age of 18 use the internet, versus 75 percent among other Jewish Israelis.

“While in recent years, we have seen a large increase among ultra-Orthodox willing to connect to the internet, we will see in the years to come whether this trend will include a more varied use of the available online platforms,” Malach and Cahaner said.

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