Shahar Ilan serves as Vice President of Research and Information for Hiddush, an Israeli NGO that promotes religious freedom and equality. He participates in many forums dealing with integration of ultra-Orthodox (haredim) at work and in the army.

Mr. Ilan is a senior journalist and commentator on issues of religion & state and Haredi affairs. He began his journalistic career at the Jerusalem newspaper Kol HaIr ‘The Entire City’ in 1984.  He served as the paper’s writer on religious affairs, news editor and editor-in-chief. From 1991-1993, and again from 1994-2001, Mr. Ilan was the correspondent for religious affairs at Ha’aretz and completed this period as a research journalist. In 1998 he published the series “Haredim ‘98” about the system of allocations and benefits from the Israeli government to the Haredi society. This series formed the basis for the book “Haredim Ltd.: Public Expenditures, Draft Dodging and Trampling the Law” published in 2000.

From 2001 to 2004 Mr. Ilan served as editor of the Ha’aretz’s daily magazine, a period which was marked an abundance of research based investigations and a directive to confront civil and social issues. From 2004 to 2009 he was responsible for a number of regular columns for the paper, served as the Haaretz parliamentary correspondent and was a member of the editorial board. At the beginning of 2008 Ilan began writing a popular blog entitled “Keeping it Kosher”. Ilan received the 1997 Bnai Brith World Center Award for Diaspora reporting and the “Knight of Quality in Government” award of the Movement for Quality in Government in 2001.

Ilan is 49 years old and lives with his wife and three children in Jerusalem, where he has lived all his life.


The fall of the Status Quo
In the early years of Israel’s statehood, a social contract on religion & state affairs called the Status Quo law was established between the government and religious parties. This covenant was based on far-reaching compromises on both sides. In recent years, the status quo has been diluted. Secular movements have undermined it mainly by petitions to the Supreme Court, ultra-Orthodox by political activities in the Israeli Parliament, The Knesset.  All attempts that were made to formulate a new social contract failed. It seems that the Israeli Society has lost the ability to compromise.

Without Haredi work, it won’t work
About 60% of men in the Israeli ultra Orthodox community study in yeshivot and do not work. The absence of ultra-Orthodox men from the labor market has caused the  Israeli economy severe damage; estimated at more than 2 billion EUR every year. Haredi fertility rate stands at 6.5 children per woman, and as such, doubles itself every twenty years or less. Publicly funded ultra-Orthodox schools for boys hardly teach them core subjects such as math and English, and do not prepare them for the labor market.

Senior economists warn that unless a dramatic change will occur and there will be a large increase in work rate of haredi men, the Israeli economy will collapse and deteriorate into developing world standards. In recent years, very interesting developments have taken place. The IDF has begun drafting hundreds of Haredi men. Thousands of women and men, mostly women, are joining Ultra Orthodox colleges. But are these changes fast enough or, as many in Israel say, are they too little and too late?