In The Jerusalem Post’s new Zoom Cast series, Professor Benjamin Brown, a lecturer in the Department of Jewish Thought at Hebrew University and an expert in ultra-Orthodox society at the Israel Democracy Institute, noted that the recent election represented both a break through in voting patterns in the sector but at the same time an indication that the traditional ultra-Orthodox parties will retain their power for many years to come.
In the run up to the election, United Torah Judaism, the party representing the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox community, was noticeably anxious about the appeal of the ultra-nationalist, hardline conservative Religious Zionist Party to its voters.
Disappointment within the ultra-Orthodox community on different levels meant that some in the sector were willing to shun their traditional representatives, leading to election results which showed the RZP, a non-ultra-Orthodox party, getting as much as 10 percent of the vote in some ultra-Orthodox strongholds.
Brown said that this phenomenon was significant because it demonstrated a willingness of part of the community to reject the instructions of the ultra-Orthodox spiritual leadership, an ideologically and religiously difficult step for someone raised in ultra-Orthodox society.
Brown explained that this kind of breakthrough, even though small in nature, will give greater legitimacy in the consciousness of the ultra-Orthodox community at large to the idea that you can be a committed ultra-Orthodox Jew and vote for a party which is itself not ultra-Orthodox.
Such a development would represent a break through for the country, since it would indicated that ultra-Orthodox Israelis can disconnect themselves from their own narrow, sectoral needs and vote on a broader set of issues.
At the same time however, the percentage of votes cast for non ultra-Orthodox parties was relatively very small.
Brown said that even if the phenomenon does continue it will take a long time for it to have a noticeable affect on the power of UTJ and its Sephardic ultra-Orthodox partner Shas.
The electoral model of those parties, emphasizing that ultra-Orthodox identity and the religious obligation of listening to the instructions of rabbis compels an ultra-Orthodox individual to vote fo an ultra-Orthodox party will therefore endure and be successful in the medium term at the very least.