Visiting Bnei Barak, and the Orthodox

Ponevitch Yeshiva in Bnei Barak. One of the top Yeshivas in Israel.

This picture is of Bnei Barak. The Orthodox is one of the poorest communities in Israel, and I thought that this picture demonstrated the lack of wealth.

Today, we headed to the city of Bnei Barak. This is the capital for the Ultra-Orthodox Jews. One thing that I found to be interesting is the significance of their dress. For the women, it is about being modest. Involved in this is not showing cleavage, not wearing tight clothing, and wearing long skirts. For the men, they always wear at least a yarmulke, which is to remind them that there is always someone above you; that someone would be God. The clothes are very traditional, and Shlomit, our guide, told us that they were the same as they wore back in Europe. The clothing that they wear allows them to identify each other. Not only can you tell the Jews from the non-Jews and the Orthodox from the less religious, but the Orthodox can tell the groups within the Orthodox apart by what they are wearing.

Also, I found it very odd, but also intriguing that the Orthodox do not attend school, nor do the men have occupations. What they do is study the Torah, or Jewish Bible, for their life. To do this, they attend a Yeshiva. The Yeshivas are broken down by age/maturity. You have the one for the young kids, the one for young adults, and then aged 16 and up. The Litaim group of the Orthodoxy only read the Torah as a way of life; each word and each letter is holy. They read the Torah over and over, as many times as they can during their lifetime. With each completion, they have gained more knowledge in their interpretation. The Ponevitch Yeshiva as we were shown is for the brightest pupils of the Torah. Our guide compared it to Oxford, but for the Orthodox schools. Orthodox Jews from all over Israel, if they are bright enough, study at this Yeshiva.


Ruti also met and talked with us about her experiences and her opinions on secular and religious Jews in Israel. She told us that the respect that the Orthodox have for the secular is much less than the respect that the secular Jews have for the Orthodox. This I could see during our tour of Bnei Barak. Some people, mainly women, would give the group a not so friendly look as they passed by.

In the Orthodox community, there is a hierarchy. What determines that hierarchy is the religiosity of the family. The better at the Torah the men are, the better the family is viewed. In turn, the women are viewed as better wives for the arranged marriages if their family is higher because of their religiosity. Also, if a member of the family would leave the Orthodoxy and return to a life of question, the family would move down the hierarchy as the one member is a black sheep and would bring shame to the family in most cases.

Overall, the tour of Bnei Barak was a change of pace from what we have heard previously, as well as a very different lifestyle to what I am used to seeing.

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