The Spending Habits of Israel’s Rising Haredi Middle-class

Israel's middle-class ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel own fewer cars and go to fewer concerts, yet spend more time on the phone and travel abroad frequently.

Emil Salman

Middle-class ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel like name brands, own their own homes and travel abroad, according to a TGI survey conducted on behalf of TheMarker.

Depending on how it is counted, Israel’s Haredi community is between 800,000 and 1 million, out of a total population of around eight million. While the community as a whole has high levels of poverty, a significant and growing proportion is middle class by Israeli standards, the market-research firm’s poll concluded.

One sign of this is the increasing number of large food manufacturers over the past several years that apply to receive the more stringent Mehadrin kashrut certification, in order to better serve their ultra-Orthodox customers.

TGI also found that Haredim are increasingly using both the Internet and credit cards, although presumably not for the purposes of entertainment.

“While secular Israelis spend their money on entertainment, the ultra-Orthodox are saving for an apartment,” TGI says.

Despite some improvements, the poverty rate in the Haredi community still exceeds that of Israel as a whole, in part due to below-average household incomes and a higher fertility rate.

The Haredi middle class are more likely than their community as a whole to vacation abroad, use the Internet and buy expensive, name-brand products.

Prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbis frequently denounce use of the Internet.

Compared to Israelis as a whole, fewer Haredim reported frequenting cafes — 33%, compared to 75%. They also reported going to movies or concerts less as well as taking far fewer vacations, both in Israel and abroad. They are less inclined to shop at major clothing chains, such as Castro, Fox and H&M. Some 80% of Israelis as a whole reported shopping at clothing chains, compared to 55% of Haredim. Since most of these chains don’t have stores in Haredi areas, this means half of the ultra-Orthodox travel to malls and shopping centers in more secular areas in order to buy clothes.

The Haredim also consume less media. While television is considered forbidden, the ultra-Orthodox also spend less time listening to the radio or using the Internet. Haredim are also less inclined to read newspapers.

Despite the sector’s relative poverty, ultra-Orthodox are more likely to own an apartment.

“That’s the real story of the Haredi economy,” says Avraham Brisk, head of PR firm Bulletin Potential. “While secular young people spend money on entertainment and studies and only afterward on an apartment, Haredim buy an apartment right after their marriage.” Parents also try to ensure that their children stay within the community and marry well — and that includes helping pay for an apartment, he noted.

Only 40% of Haredi families own a car, versus 78% of Israelis as a whole. Yet that’s more than the perception — if you ask car importers, they’ll say only 15% of Haredim own a car, says Brisk. Brisk notes that Haredim are much less likely to have use of a company car than secular Israelis are.

Some 40% of Haredim report spending more than 30 minutes on the phone a day, versus 30% of Israelis overall. Brisk attributes this in part to the reduced use of other forms of entertainment among Haredim, including online social networks such as Facebook.

He asserts that Haredim are much more likely than Israelis on the whole to respond to advertising, and conjectures that this is due to their being less exposed to television and other advertising media.

The survey covered all of December 2013. All respondents were Hebrew-speaking Israelis aged 18 and up.