One Haredi leader who almost won Jerusalem’s mayoralty race last fall, boasts that, within 20 years, the ultra-Orthodox will control the municipal government of every city in the country. And why not? Of the Jewish Israeli children entering primary school for the first time this month, more than 25 per cent are Haredi, and that proportion will keep growing. There are between 600,000 and 700,000 Haredim in Israel, and they average 8.8 children a family.
A decade ago, there were almost no Haredim in the West Bank settlements. Today, the two largest settlements are entirely ultra-Orthodox, and the Haredim are about a third of the almost 300,000 settlers.
Now that they have tightened the rules on who can be a Jew and have forced the public bus company to provide gender-segregated buses in many communities, a discouraged secular community is starting to emigrate.
Nehemia Shtrasler, a business and political columnist for the Haaretz newspaper, wrote this summer that the country is risking destruction. “We will survive the conflict with the Palestinians and even the nuclear threats from Iran,” he wrote. “But the increasing rupture between the secular and ultra-Orthodox communities in Israel will be the end of us.” Mr. Shtrasler said: “It’s a struggle between two contradictory worldviews that cannot exist side by side.”
Will Israel adhere to its founding secular values or will it become a theocratic Jewish state? [continued…]
The United States called on its close ally Israel on Tuesday to conduct credible investigations into allegations of war crimes committed by its forces in Gaza, saying it would help the Middle East peace process. [continued…]
Hamas has announced that it will accept an Egyptian proposal for ending its bitter power struggle with Fatah, renewing hopes for an end to political deadlock and intra-Palestinian violence and pave the way for presidential and parliamentary elections next year. [continued…]