Sat, Apr 07, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Modernity creeping into the haredim's world


It broadly means anyone who takes the maximalist approach to Jewish law and follows a lifestyle whose most visible characteristics are unlikely to change soon.

Haredi neighborhoods in Jerusalem or the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak feel like 18th century European ghettos: men in long black coats and large fur hats called streimels; women in shapeless dresses covering their wrists and ankles, wrapped in scarves or wigs because they shave their heads when they marry.

In Mea Shearim, Jerusalem's largest haredi neighborhood, cars are banned on the Sabbath and toddlers ride tricycles down the middle of the street. In synagogues, men press their lips to the words of an open Torah scroll.

Haredi households shun TV, and haredi rabbis have ruled that only cellphones without Internet access are permissible.

Israel's haredim number an estimated 600,000 -- nearly 9 percent of the population and growing fast. Jerusalem, the city at the center of the Arab-Israeli conflict, is now one-third haredi and has its first ultra-Orthodox mayor.

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