Bnei Brak (or Bene Beraq) is a city located on Israel’s central Mediterranean coastal plain, just east of Tel Aviv. Bnei Brak is a center of Ultra Orthodox Judaism. Bnei Brak is the 10th largest city in Israel. It is one of the poorest and most densely populated cities in Israel. According to figures by the municipality of Bnei Brak, the city has a population of over 181,000 residents, the majority of whom are Haredi Jews.
Haredi Judaism is a stream of Orthodox Judaism characterized by rejection of modern secular culture. Its members are often referred to as strictly Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox in English. Haredim regard themselves as the most religiously authentic group of Jews although this is contested by other ultra-Orthodox groups. In contrast to Modern Orthodox Judaism, which turned to modernity, the approach of the Haredim was to maintain a steadfast adherence to Jewish religious law by segregating itself from modern society.
Their communities are primarily found in Israel, North America and Western Europe. During the Holocaust, their numbers were devastated, with whole communities wiped out. Their estimated global population currently numbers 1.3–1.5 million and due to a virtual absence of interfaith marriage and a high birth rate, their numbers are growing rapidly.
Haredi life, like Orthodox Jewish life in general, is very family-centered. Boys and girls attend separate schools and proceed to higher Torah study, in a yeshiva or seminary respectively, starting anywhere between the ages of 13 and 18. A significant proportion of young men remain in yeshiva until their marriage. After marriage, many Haredi men continue their Torah studies in a kollel. Studying in secular institutions is discouraged. In the United States and Europe, the majority of Haredi males are active in the workforce. For various reasons, in Israel, around half of their members do not work, and most of those who do are not officially a part of the workforce. Families are usually large, reflecting adherence to the biblical commandment “Be fruitful and multiply”.
Haredi Jews are typically opposed to the viewing of television and films, and the reading of secular newspapers and books. There has been a strong campaign against the Internet and internet-enabled mobile phones without filters have also been banned by many leading rabbis. In May 2012, 40,000 Haredim gathered at Citi Field, to discuss the dangers of unfiltered Internet. Internet has been allowed for business purposes so long as filters are installed.
Purim in Bnei Braq
On Purim, Eileen and I along with our friends Ariiet and Ilana visited Bnei Braq. The streets were crowded with revelers, and, for one day only, the Haredim were able to ‘let go’ and celebrate the holiday. Images from the day follow below:-
To be continued…