Despite public criticism, two thirds of ultra-Orthodox Israelis are now online
The Israel Democracy Institute published its sixth annual Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel today (Thursday). The survey presences recent trends in ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) society in a range of areas, including standard of living, education, employment, social mobility, leisure, and lifestyles. This year a special chapter of the Report was dedicated to the growing use of the internet in the ultra-Orthodox community.
Dr. Malach and Dr. Cahaner: "Ultra-Orthodox society is currently divided into three main groups when it comes to the internet. The first, conservative, tends to ignore digital innovation and continues to boycott online usage. The second, pragmatic, recognizes the need to use the internet and adopts it for communication, information, work and a variety of services, with reservations regarding its social functions. The third, categorized as 'modern', adopts most of the innovations available online. Those who belong to this group make use of the various online platforms, including social media, and do not see the internet as a threat to their lifestyle. 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."
Internet – Members of the ultra-Orthodox community are gradually integrating internet use into their lifestyle. In 2020 almost two-thirds (64%) used the internet, compared with only 28% in 2008. This number is still low compared to other Jewish Israelis (93%). Haredim also differ in the way they connect to the network, and tend to connect mainly via their home computers (42%), rather than through the mobile phones (30%). Even when they have access to the internet by both means, most Haredim will prefer to connect from a computer (62%) - compared to other Jewish Israelis whose main internet usage is on mobile phones (72%).
61% of Haredim report having a computer in their homes, compared to 88% of other Jewish Israelis. Haredim who do own a computer use less of its functions compared to other Jewish Israelis.
Usage – Haredim's use of the Internet tends to be functional rather than social. E-mail is the most used application (88%), followed by information searches (73%), digital banking (62%), for work (58%) and receiving services from government ministries (56%). These usage rates are similar to those of other Jews, but information search is lower among other Jews (94%), and only a little over a third (36%) pay bills and shop online, compared to more than half (53%) of other Jewish Israelis.
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. Almost half (46%) use the WhatsApp messaging app, and only 10% use the internet for gaming purposes.
Primary Internet Usage (%, among internet users)
Digital skills – although in the information age digital literacy is considered an essential skill that affects one's ability to integrate into the labor market, only 60% of the ultra-Orthodox perceive digital skills as basic skills, a much lower rate than among other Jewish Israelis (92%). The gaps may also be due to the fact that ultra-Orthodox report less that digital skills are required of them in daily life: only 37% need them for work compared to 57% of other Jewish Israelis.
Only 6% of the ultra-Orthodox have advanced skills in finding employment through the internet, in contrast to 22% among other Jews. In addition, only about one-third (35%) of the ultra-Orthodox who use the internet said that they possess great skill in using new digital technologies on the internet in daily life, compared with about two-thirds (63%) of other Jews. However, the proportion of those who indicated that it was difficult for them to acquire new digital skills was the same and relatively low in both populations (28%).
Digital safety - Haredim who use the internet report less vulnerability than other Israelis. 14% say they were harmed by online crime and about a quarter (23%) were exposed to offensive content (compared with 24% and 37% among other Jews, respectively). One possible explanation is the relatively limited presence of ultra-Orthodox on social networks.
Ultra-Orthodox make less use of online security measures: 59% use protection software and almost half (48%) report changing passwords in the year prior to the survey, compared to 64% among other Jewish Israelis who take these precautions.
Internet use among children and youth - The proportion of children and youth (under the age of 18) who use the internet is only 13% among ultra-Orthodox respondents - much lower compared to other Jewish Israelis (75%). Haredi parents restrict their children's access to the network more than other Jewish parents (88% vs. 57% respectively), as well as the amount of usage (76% vs. 62% respectively).
Maintaining relationships through technology – Most Israelis maintain contacts mainly through meetings or telephone conversations, while in ultra-Orthodox society connections through telephone conversations is more dominant than meetings (46% vs. 40%). A significant gap between the populations is found in keeping in touch through messaging apps such as WhatsApp: only a small minority (11%) of the ultra-Orthodox maintain contact mainly in this way compared to a third of other Jewish Israelis.
The ultra-Orthodox who do use the internet have fewer virtual social relationships than other Jewish Israelis (12% vs. 18% respectively); They are less likely to rekindle less friendships via the internet (26% as opposed to 51%); join online groups (22% vs. 44%), and a very low percentage use online dating sites (4% vs. 19%). The proportion of ultra-Orthodox who think that technologies improve familial and social ties is also lower among other Haredim (27% and 28%), compared with other Jewish Israelis (54% and 57%).
Impact of Technology on Quality of Life and Relationships (%, among internet users)
Use of Internet for Social Connections, by Population, 2020 (%, among internet users)
Attitudes towards technology - About half of the ultra-Orthodox (48%) think that digital technologies improve the quality of life compared to 82% of other Jewish Israelis, and among ultra-Orthodox people who use the Internet, the gap is greatly reduced (63% and 84%, respectively). Also, about half of the ultra-Orthodox (49%) think that digital technologies reduce social disparities.
Dr. Lee Cahaner and Dr. Gilad Malach, editors of the Statistical Report: "Notwithstanding internal public criticism regarding use of the internet, the data shows that one third of ultra-Orthodox do indeed engage in online activity. Nevertheless, online behavior patterns among ultra-Orthodox users differs from how the internet is used by non-Haredi users. The internet is used 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. Nevertheless, around half of ultra-Orthodox users, who do use the internet – do so for social interactions, are technologically savvy and have a high appreciation of the benefits the digital revolution has on both the quality of life and social connections. Still, even this group is very cautious in using the internet and limits online access for younger people.”
Data presented in the Statistical Report are based on data produced by the Central Bureau of Statistics, government ministries and agencies, and the National Insurance Institute.