The lifestyles of the ultra-Orthodox are in a process of constant flux. More and more ultra-Orthodox Israelis are using the internet, holding a driving license, and taking vacations. It is clear that despite the significant gaps which still exist between the ultra-Orthodox and the rest of the Jewish population in these areas, there is a growing trend towards greater integration of the ultra-Orthodox into the Israeli mainstream.
Enlistment into the IDF and Volunteer in Civilian National Service
At the end of 2019, the head of the IDF’s Manpower Division appointed a commission to review the data on ultra-Orthodox conscription to the IDF, following media reports of inflated figures. Until a full review of this issue has been completed, we are unable to discuss ultra-Orthodox service in the IDF, and are confining our analysis to volunteering in civilian National Service programs. Once the data on IDF service has been fully reviewed, we will update our data in the online version of this Report.
In 2018, 530 ultra-Orthodox men joined civilian National Service programs—that is, only 5% of male graduates of the ultra-Orthodox education system. This figure of 530 is only one-quarter of the most recent (2016) target that was set of 2,000 new recruits. . Over the past few years, civilian National Service has become less and less attractive for the ultra-Orthodox, and the numbers joining this service in 2018 dropped to less than half of those in 2011.
Figure 9: Ultra-Orthodox Volunteers in Civilian National Service, 2008–2018
For the first time, in 2017–2018, about half (49%) of ultra-Orthodox adults used the internet. By comparison, only 28% of ultra-Orthodox adults were internet users in 2008–2009. However, this is still a low rate when compared with the rest of the Jewish population, among which 89% of adults use the internet.
Figure 10: Internet Use by Population Group (ages 20+) 2008–2018 (%)
Vacationing in Israel and Abroad
Ultra-Orthodox Israelis prefer to vacation in Israel, though there is a clear rise in the numbers taking vacations abroad. In 2017–2018, 54% of the ultra-Orthodox took a vacation in Israel, and 17% vacationed abroad. In recent years, as noted, there has been a sharp rise in the numbers of those vacationing abroad (up from just 12% in 2013–2014), though this rate remains very low in comparison to the rest of the Jewish population, among whom 52% take vacations outside of Israel.
Figure 11: Vacationing in Israel and Abroad, by Population Group, 2017–2018 (%)
Voting Patterns in Knesset Elections
In the September 2019 elections for the 22nd Knesset, the ultra-Orthodox political parties (United Torah Judaism and Shas) garnered 13.5% of the total vote, compared with 8.2% in the 1992 elections. The voting patterns for United Torah Judaism (UTJ) are an indication of the number of ultra-Orthodox citizens in Israel and their geographic distribution. Some 24% of the UTJ vote came from Jerusalem, and 19% from Bnei Brak. Around 20% of UTJ voters are residents of the “new” ultra-Orthodox cities (Elad, Beitar Illit, Modi’in Illit, and Beit Shemesh), and another 12% live in large cities with a sizable ultra-Orthodox population (Haifa, Netanya, Ashdod, Petah Tikva, and Rehovot). The remaining UTJ voters live in Israel’s geographic periphery, and in other towns.
A comparison of the data from the 1992 and the 2019 elections reveals that as a result of significant influxes of the ultra-Orthodox to specific cities , the percentage of votes for UTJ has doubled or more over that period; Jerusalem, Ashdod, Haifa, and Arad. In Tel Aviv, by contrast, the percentage of UTJ voters was cut by half during the same period of time.
Figure 12: Voter Turnout for UTJ and Shas for the Knesset (13th (1992), 16th (2003), 20th (2015), 21st (2019); total in Israel)
** The Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel is based on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, government ministries and authorities, and the National Insurance Institute.