Nearly a million ultra-Orthodox Jews are thought to live in Israel. On average, ultra-Orthodox households have six or seven children, making them the fastest growing segment of the country’s population. Within the next 20 years the number of ultra-Orthodox Israelis is expected to approach 2 million – which prompts the question as to where they will all live.
It turns out, however, that this conundrum hasn’t really bothered the Israeli government in recent years. Somehow the sense has taken root among the country’s leadership that the Haredim will manage on their own, whether it means crowding into individual apartments in Jerusalem or the ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, or by moving into existing non-Haredi poor neighborhoods elsewhere.
But either option is problematic. Bnei Brak is already poor and existing population densities there verge on threatening the residents’ safety. The option of moving into poor, non-Haredi neighborhoods is an elegant way of describing a phenomenon that has already occurred, for example in parts of Beit Shemesh, and in the process existing residents have left. The result is power struggles and cultural clashes that do no one any good and simply exacerbate the existing divide in this country between secular and Haredi citizens.
But just recently, the Construction Ministry has woken up to the problem and begun exploring options.