Exemptions from military service and state subsidies for ultra-Orthodox Jews have become a divisive political issue in Israel, where the government must decide a new law by August to ensure more of them serve in the army.
The ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim (Hebrew for “those who tremble (before God)”), have gone from being a tiny minority in Israel’s mostly secular society to its fastest-growing sector, now about 10 percent of the 7.8 million population.
Here are some facts about the ultra-Orthodox:
MAIN GROUPS: The ultra-Orthodox, the most conservative of all streams of Judaism, are a diverse movement made up mainly of three overall groups:
- Lithuanians or Litvaks are Ashkenazi (eastern European) Jews from what is now Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and parts of Poland. Deeply traditional, their intellectual approach focuses on deep study of the Torah and their yeshivas (schools for Torah study) are widely respected.