If demographic change spells a more progressive future for America, it spells a much more culturally conservative future for Israel. The impact is already being felt strongly enough there that even some orthodox women are joining a feminist movement to combat it. Believe it or not, a lot of their struggle involves preventing segregated busing. The Haredim (ultra-orthodox) don’t want to have to ride the bus with “immodest” women. They don’t even want “immodest” women to walk or jog in their neighborhoods, and they have signs to prove it. When Israel began, the Haredim might have made up 1% of their society. That is no longer the case.
Already, many fear that efforts like Nili Philipp’s to stop ultra-Orthodox encroachment are doomed, simply because Haredim, nearly all of whom have more than five children and some of whom procreate in the double digits, are reproducing rapidly. The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics projects that, at current growth rates, Israel could well be 40 percent Haredi by 2059. The activists worry, justifiably, that as the Haredi population continues to expand, so will its political influence.
The demographics already reached one tipping point. Originally, when the Haredim population was tiny, the secular socialist state granted them an exemption from military service so that they could devote themselves to religious study. But the past election created a coalition opposed to extending the military exemption. Too many people were exempt. Yet, it probably won’t be too long before the Haredim are strong enough to restore the old way of doing things.
The country is changing profoundly.