Making an Ultra-Orthodox Middle Class

Among Israel’s Ḥaredim, the basic bourgeois virtues of moderation, hard work, patriotism, and temperate consumption are largely lacking, notes Yehoshua Pfeffer. The constant pressure to strive for religious excellence, the emphasis on Torah study over work and the consequent widespread poverty, the suspicion of government, and the tendency toward asceticism especially among non-ḥasidic Ḥaredim, all militate against the creation of a ḥaredi middle class. Yet changes in ḥaredi society as greater numbers gain more exposure to the outside world, together with a growing minority of men working regular jobs and serving in the military, make the emergence of an ultra-Orthodox bourgeoisie a possibility. Pfeffer argues that such a development is both desirable and feasible, and would be aided by the deep-felt ḥaredi attachment to such traditional middle-class values as duty, voluntarism, and family loyalty.

Many thousands of ḥaredi men and women have already been making their way into Israeli academia, the general workforce, and public service. Even in terms of culture and leisure, large swaths of ḥaredi society have over recent years moved closer to general society, as evidenced both by the development of a ḥaredi culture [complete with its own popular music, newspapers, and so forth] and by increasing ḥaredi consumption of general culture (the popular Shtisel television series, depicting a ḥaredi family residing in Jerusalem, is a good example). Growing numbers of ḥaredi Facebook groups and a significant presence on other social-media platforms also indicate an unprecedented level of openness and integration. . . .

But even within the most conservative segments of ḥaredi society, . . . the growing embourgeoisement is unmistakable. Car ownership, [for instance], has risen sharply (up to 41 percent, based on latest surveys), and many allow themselves to enjoy an occasional meal at a restaurant and even family vacations abroad. . . .

The “heroic bourgeoisie” famously praised by Alexis de Tocqueville exhibits a combination of private initiative with virtue. [And] anyone who knows ḥaredi society cannot fail to be impressed by the degree of private initiative within it. This initiative can be seen in innumerable institutions [engaging in] charitable work, the provision of healthcare, evangelization to non-Orthodox Jews, religious education, and so forth. Some of these, like the United Hatzalah emergency medical service and the ZAKA disaster-response service, have enjoyed broad public resonance in serving the entire Israeli population. [Indeed], almost every second ḥaredi adult is involved in some sort of volunteer activity. If Tocqueville was amazed at the voluntary activities of the churches in America, he would likely have been no less impressed by the activity surrounding the synagogues in ḥaredi society.

[Furthermore], the ideas of Israeli Ḥaredim about economics are surprisingly similar to those of early Americans. A 2015 poll . . . revealed that among voters of various political parties, Ḥaredim are by far the most likely to endorse free-market positions.

Read more at Tzarich Iyun

More about: Alexis de Tocqueville, Haredim, Israeli society, Religion & Holidays


Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security