There is no clear information on how many ultra-Orthodox people live in Israel, or how belonging to that minority is defined by the state, according to a new report by the Central Bureau of Statistics. The 59-page report, compiled by nine statisticians, compares four studies released by the bureau in recent years - each of which attempted to identify the size of Israel's Haredi population, but with disparate results.

One study put the size of the group at 700,000, and another at 444,000, while a third offered a general estimate of between 630,000 and 700,000 ultra-Orthodox. All data concerns the number of Haredim living in Israel in 2006.

Non-governmental organizations also came up with very different numbers. The Hiddush organization for religious freedom and equality counted between 690,000 and 710,000 people in the ultra-Orthodox community, while MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism ) put the number at "nearly a million." Meir Gal, of the Gal advertising agency, which specifically targets this population, estimated the total at 930,000 to 950,000.

The two most contradicting statistical studies used information taken from the educational system. The first, which concluded that the ultra-Orthodox population numbered 700,000, counted every sector of Israeli society by using official student and teacher lists. The second, which put the figure at 444,000, relied on a survey in which respondents were asked to describe the last educational institution they attended. A household was classified as Haredi if at least one member had attended a "great" ultra-Orthodox yeshiva.

A third study conducted by the bureau used actual polling data from the latest general elections, in a bid to identify large Haredi concentrations, determine their homogeneity, and derive from that the size of the sector's overall population. This produced a flexible rate of between 630,000 and 795,0000.

The fourth study used the results of an annual general survey conducted by the bureau since 2002, in which every participant is asked to describe themselves. Although this may sound like the most reliable method, it only includes respondents