This study presents a unique phenomenon in the field of Israeli education – the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) education system for boys. The paper describes a system that has created a meaningful alternative to the regular state education in Israel, employing its own methods and teaching means. The system has inculcated the Haredi worldview to hundreds of thousands of graduates and achieved meteoric growth over recent decades.
The Haredi education system is the focus of interest for three reasons. We wish to understand the successes and challenges posed by an educational approach that differs from those with which we are familiar; we wish to learn more about the way the young Haredi is educated and shaped; and we are interested in enhancing our understanding of how this system impacts on Haredi society in particular and on Israeli society in general. Focusing on the Haredi education system in Jerusalem enables us to achieve an in-depth familiarity with the largest and most diverse collection of Haredi educational institutions for boys in Israel. This center functions as a model for the development of other Haredi population centers around Israel.
This education system is a melting pot that has absorbed hundreds of thousands of students over recent decades – the future generations of the Haredi world. It shapes the worldview and habits of the young Haredi, who grows into a man who is familiar with the Torah and observes the commandments. Numerous processes within Haredi society can be associated directly or indirectly with the activities that take place within this system, including issues that are raised on the Israeli agenda, such as the low level of employment of Haredi men or the tendency to insularity and extremism.
This study examines the unique profile of this system within its environment, drawing on data that describe its characteristics, but relating also to its profile through statistics and through the Haredi perception of the system. The description focuses on the methods used by the various components of the Haredi education system (kindergartens, Talmudei Torah, and Yeshivot Ktanot), and discusses the differences between the different streams that comprise this system. The study examines the activities of various elements within the system and in its periphery, ivas well as processes that occur among its institutions, and processes that occur among the students themselves during the course of their education.
This study does not claim to present a full or complete picture of Haredi education. Neither does it necessarily seek to evaluate the quality of the education described here or its desirable future, or to present a coherent proposal for government policy toward this system. Our objective is to present an impressive education system that deserves attention.
Some will consider this study to be “too positive” regarding Haredi education and its complex impact. Others may find it difficult to accept the criticism presented here, and will question the study’s reliability. As a secular researcher, I cannot purport to present the full character of the Haredi world, but I was careful to address the subject from a standpoint of respect. I apologize sincerely to those who may feel offended by my description of the subject. Any errors, distortions, or misunderstandings are my responsibility alone.
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