Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel gradually entering internet age in 2021

IDI's index, the sixth annual statistical report on the haredi community in Israel, was published on Thursday.

 HAREDI MEN with cell phones in Jerusalem.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
HAREDI MEN with cell phones in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The Israeli haredi community is beginning to integrate Internet use into its everyday life, the Israel Democracy Institute’s 2021 index shows.

IDI’s index, the sixth annual statistical report on the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community in Israel, was published on Thursday.

According to IDI, almost two-thirds (64%) of all haredi individuals in Israel used the Internet in the past year. While this number is still low compared to 93% of all Jewish Israelis, it represents a meteoric rise over the last decade. Only 28% of haredim used the Internet in 2008.

Interestingly, 62% of haredim preferred to browse the Internet using their PC. That preference is flipped within broader Jewish Israeli society, with 72% stating their preferred method of browsing the Internet was by using their smartphones.

However, haredi use of the Internet appears to be much more functional, rather than social or recreational. Most haredim who used the Internet only did so for functional purposes, with email (88%), informational searches (73%), digital banking (62%) and services from government ministries (56%) being the only applications used by most of the haredi population who surfed the Web.

In contrast, social and recreational applications are used far less, with social media used by only half of all haredi Internet users, and online shopping used only by 45%.

Illustration (credit: PEXELS)Illustration (credit: PEXELS)

“Ultra-Orthodox society is currently divided into three main groups when it comes to the Internet,” said Dr. Lee Cahaner and Dr. Gilad Malach, editors of the statistical report. “The first, conservative, tends to ignore digital innovation and continues to boycott online usage. The second, pragmatic, recognizes the need to use the Internet and adopt it for communication, information, work and a variety of services, with reservations regarding its social functions. The third, categorized as ‘modern,’ adopts most of the innovations available online.

“While in recent years, we have seen a large increase among ultra-Orthodox willing to connect to the Internet, we will see in the years to come whether this trend will include a more varied use of the available online platforms.”

IDI’s index also revealed the haredi population in Israel stands at around 1,226,000, 13% of the total Israeli population in 2021. Some 362,000 or 19% of all students in Israeli schools are haredi, while haredim constitute around 14,700 or 4.5% of all Israelis studying in higher educational institutions such as universities. Interestingly, more than two-thirds (67.5%) of all haredi students are women.