Virtually all of the population growth (<-- possibly an exaggeration) in Israel comes from the extremely reproductive very, very orthodox community. I find this a hard thing to think about. For one, the way to get status in this community as a woman is to basically be continuously pregnant. They don't live a long time, and their daughters do a lot of the childrearing. That's bad. The desire to make all these new people is complex in part because there is an ongoing desire to make up for all the people who were murdered and the children, grandchildren, etc. they never had. I don't know that I, as not-a-Jew, can ever really understand it, but I'm certainly not prepared to say anything negative about it. And the extremely orthodox are also extremely reluctant to serve in the army: to the extent that they constitute a larger and larger fraction of the voting public in Israel, it might tend to reduce the likelihood of going to war. Maybe.
Public policy on the subject is bizarre. The men can get paid to study religion full time and, as a result, a large fraction take this choice. Whatever you might think of a state choosing to finance a particular area of study and religiously based way of life, I, personally, take deep offense that there's a "modern" state supporting a bunch of guys who believe what they believe about women. And I don't just mean the reproductive weirdness. They aren't pacifists; one of their big concerns about serving in the army is having to be around women.
"Several months ago the center issued a report that caused widespread alarm: If current trends continue, it said, 78 percent of primary school children in Israel by 2040 will be either ultra-Orthodox or Arab."
I was betting that at some point, even the government would be unable to ignore these demographic realities. And sure enough, they're starting to pay attention. Also, other groups in the country are starting to notice that they're not getting as good a deal and insisting on fairness.
I understand that when you're dealing with a group who believes stuff way, way, way out of the mainstream, accomodating them in an effort to re-integrate them looks bad along the way, but can be justified if successful. All I can say is, they'd _better_ be successful. This kind of thing:
"At a recent Hanukkah concert for Shahar soldiers, held in a cultural center near Tel Aviv, men filled the main hall of the auditorium; their wives and crying babies were in the balcony above."
This kind of thing does not make me happy. And those families are the most progressive in their group.