Young ultra-Orthodox insist they can continue to lead pious lives while also embracing technology.
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A quiet revolution is arising inside the insular world of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community – chipping away at the ghetto walls its leaders have erected to protect against what they see as the dangers of secularism.Experts have long warned that Israel faces long-term economic ruin if its fastest growing sector, known as the Haredim, continues to reject the mainstream education system, enjoy sweeping military draft exemptions, raise large families on taxpayer-funded handouts and devote themselves almost entirely to their cloistered world of scripture and study.Where only a third of Haredi males had jobs as recently as 2003, the employment rate for Haredi males has now passed the 50 percent mark, according to Gilad Malach, a researcher from the Israel Democracy Institute who specializes in the community.Draft exemptions go back to Israel's establishment in 1948, when the government allowed several hundred able students to pursue exclusive religious studies to help rebuild schools of Jewish learning destroyed in the Holocaust. As ultra-Orthodox parties became power brokers, the numbers mounted, with thousands of young religious men evading the draft to pursue seminary studies while most other Jewish men are conscripted for three years of mandatory service.
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