In “It’s the budget, stupid,” published by the daily Haaretz in January, 2008, Nehemia Shtrasler has succinctly argued that because of the very nature of their religious ideology and the weltanschauung that it espouses and promotes, those belonging to the ultra-orthodox Haredim community will continue having large families, irrespective of the amount of state support at their disposal. He does, however, argue that the state can promote the rapid population expansion of the said community by increasing the amount of child support benefits – something that plays an important role in most Haredim households. Of course, whether this would be a positive development or otherwise cannot be judged from the Haredim perspective alone.
In terms of demographics, the ultra-orthodox Jews represent only 7%-8% of the Israeli population – making them a small minority, even when compared against the Israeli Arabs, who make up 18% of the population within the territorial confines of Israel proper. However, as pointed out by Margalit and Halbertal2, they represent a cohesive community with a strong and densely populated territorial representation. Furthermore, they represent a distinct way of life – often, sharply at contrast with the rest of Israel’s civic society – and herein lies the rub.
2 Margalit, Avishai, and Halbertal, Moshe, “Liberalism and the Right to Culture”, Social Research, Vol. 61, No. 3 (Fall 1994), pp: 491- 510.
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