Thursday, May 12, 2016

Shhh: Haredim Use Internet as Much as Other Israelis

Ultra-Orthodox Jews go online to gossip, share views and let down their hair, but usually under fake names, a recent study shows.

Their rabbis don’t like it, but ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel surf the internet like mad, a recent study shows. Some use their home computers, but since Haredi schools prohibit internet connections in the households of their students – and most ultra-Orthodox families have children – the average Haredi accesses the web using a mobile device.

Of Israel’s population of nearly 8.5 million, 74 percent are Jews, 20.8 percent are Arab and 5.2 percent are “other.”

Haredim account for around 750,000 of Israel’s total Jewish population of 6.37 million. It’s the fastest-growing Jewish subgroup, increasing by about 5 percent a year, compared to 1.7 percent for the Jewish population as a whole.

While ultra-Orthodox Jews surf the internet a lot, they don’t do it openly, the study done at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev shows – and a lot of their attention span is given to hiding their own identity while trying to guess who other surfers from their community might be.

Internet had been broadly prohibited in the ultra-Orthodox world because of the potential for distraction from the holy life. But solutions like “kosher” smartphones were clearly unable to keep pace with innovation and the rabbis have all but given up on outright bans.

The upshot has been the proliferation of sites and content for the Haredi surfer, which is now acknowledged not only to exist, but to be very active. The Ben-Gurion University study, which set out to characterize the Haredi surfer, shows that Israel’s ultra-Orthodox are online as much as their less religiously observant peers. [...]

The conclusion is that the rabbis may have fought the internet revolution tooth and nail but it’s changing the way young ultra-Orthodox people live and opening them not only to new employment opportunities, but to new thoughts.

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