Will Israel Become an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish State?

Israel’s Orthodox Jewish population is growing rapidly, and is far more cohesive and disciplined than “secular” society.

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: Orthodox Jews, Jewish State
Religious and Orthodox Jews are today a political force to be reckoned with, and that has Israel's secular society unsettled. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90
Religious and Orthodox Jews are today a political force to be reckoned with, and that has Israel's secular society unsettled. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90

One of the big concerns of the largely “secular” Israelis protesting week after week in Tel Aviv is that Israel will be transformed into a religious state based on Halacha (Jewish religious law), not unlike the way Iran is today governed by a particular brand of Islamic Sharia Law.

But legislation by one party or another is highly unlikely to bring about such a scenario under present circumstances.

The real “threat” (for those who see it as a threat) is to be found in the rapid growth rate of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish (Haredi) population in Israel.

Israel in general has an extremely high birthrate, far outstripping most Western industrialized nations. But even that pales in comparison to the birthrate and other growth factors in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

To mark Israel’s 75th Independence Day, the Haredi Institute for Public Affairs conducted a study examining the growth of ultra-Orthodox society since the establishment of the state.

It is difficult to pin down the precise number of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the newborn State of Israel during its early years because surveys at the time did not segment the Jewish population.

Only at the end of the 1990s did researchers begin to identify the ultra-Orthodox population in surveys. This was based on personnel surveys by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) conducted in 1979 – but estimates produced were too low and did not provide an accurate picture of the size of the ultra-Orthodox population in Israel.

In 2002, the CBS began to segment the Jewish population in its annual social survey, and in 2014 the distinction was added also to the manpower survey, which is broader than the social survey.

According to the available data, the ultra-Orthodox population in Israel in 1979 was approximately 212,000 (about 5.6% of the population).

From then until 2023, ultra-Orthodox society grew by an astounding 509% and currently stands at approximately 1,290,000 people (about 12.9% of the population).

For comparison, the rest of the population in Israel (non-Orthodox Jews and Arabs) grew in those years by 135%.

According to estimates, on Israel’s 90th Independence Day the ultra-Orthodox population will reach approximately 2,150,000 (about 18% of the total population), and on the 100th Independence Day in 2048 the number will reach an estimated 2,860,000 (about 21.2% of the total population) .


Aliyah from America

Estimates put the Jewish population in the United States at 7 million or more, at least 10% of whom are identified as ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Should America experience as significant increase in antisemitism, many ultra-Orthodox communities would be among the first to make Aliyah to Israel. That would mean a sudden influx of hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews, providing an enormous boost to the community here.


A different kind of voter base

Even without a large sudden influx of ultra-Orthodox immigrants from the US, the natural growth rate of the Haredi community is even more significant politically than it appears.

The ultra-Orthodox population is not like the rest of the “free-thinking” secular population when it comes to important matters like whom to vote for. Its positions and actions are governed by a hierarchy of leading rabbis who the ultra-Orthodox voters consult before casting their ballots. Which is one of the reasons you don’t see a large proliferation of ultra-Orthodox political parties. Political power is consolidated into one Ashkenazi faction (United Torah Judaism) and one Sephardi faction (Shas).

Secular and national religious society, meanwhile, continues to splinter into myriad competing political factions, thus splitting their vote many times over.

As a result, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish vote becomes far weightier than a secular Jewish vote.

And with the rapid growth rate of the ultra-Orthodox voter base, you can see where this is headed.

Ironically, it is secular society’s exaggerated focus on individual freedom and personal identity that is likely to facilitate the thing they fear most, a religious state governed by a far more cohesive and disciplined ultra-Orthodox community.


Israel Today Membership

Read all member content. Access exclusive, in-depth reports from Israel! Free Zoom events. Connect with Israel right from your home! Raise a voice of truth and hope. Support Faith-based journalism in Jerusalem!


/ month
Full access to Israel Today's Member-only content on all Digital Platforms.
Become a Member


/ year
Full access to Israel Today's Member-only content on all Digital Platforms.
Save 18% Per Month.
Become a Member

Six Months

every 6 months
Full access to Israel Today's Member-only content on all Digital Platforms.
Save 9% Per Month.
Become a Member

4 responses to “Will Israel Become an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish State?”

  1. hdfuerst says:

    Auf die Frage dieses Artikels antworte ich mit NEIN. Warum?
    Nun, die Unterteilung von “ultraorthodox und säkular” ist m.E. nicht umfassend.
    So gibt es doch viele jüdische Israelis, die an Gott und sein Wort glauben, aber nicht an die Ansichten der Rabbiner, die ihren Glauben auf den Talmud stützen, sondern die die Gebote so gut wie möglich halten, wie sie in der Tora niedergelegt sind. Diese würde ich als die Haredi betrachten.

  2. Jake Wilson says:

    I think it is a good development.

    As a Torah observant Nazarene, I may not entirely agree with certain tenets of the “Haredi faith,” but that doesn’t matter. In my view, the ultra-Orthodox Yehudim are serving G-d from their heart, and mistakes don’t matter.

    On the other hand, the fears on the secular side are understandable too. May the the Jewish people stick together and not allow enmity in their own rows.

  3. Susan says:

    I believe the fight is against God’s Torah itself. If the simplest of God’s commands cannot be adhered to in the here and now, what makes people think that when the Messiah returns, they will automatically obey His Torah? Yeshua said He did not come to do away with the Law, but to fulfill it. He led by example. He lived it the way it was intended to be lived. He actually was more stringent: to look with lust was now adultery and to hate a brother was murder. The intent of the heart became fully exposed.

    The ultra Orthodox, for the most part I believe, want God to be their King again; and only obedience to HIS word can make it happen🙌

  4. Sarah Kelly says:

    Psa 19:7  The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
    Psa 19:8  The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
    Psa 19:9  The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
    Psa 19:10  More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
    Psa 19:11  Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

    This is not Sharia law – even if kept very imperfectly.

Leave a Reply

Israel Today Newsletter

Daily news

FREE to your inbox

Israel Heute Newsletter

Tägliche Nachrichten

KOSTENLOS in Ihrer Inbox

Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter