World

Jerusalem protests look to preserve ultra-Orthodox lifestyle

An ultra-Orthodox Jew gets hit by a police water canon in March during a protest against Israeli army conscription in Jerusalem.
Associated Press/Oded Balilty, File
An ultra-Orthodox Jew gets hit by a police water canon in March during a protest against Israeli army conscription in Jerusalem.

JERUSALEM — A string of protests by ultra-Orthodox Jewish activists against Israel’s compulsory military service has paralyzed Jerusalem in recent weeks in what their leaders had hoped would be a show of strength by the traditionally insular society.

But instead, the demonstrations reflect a desperate attempt by members of a vocal minority trying to preserve a lifestyle that is rapidly changing around them.

Widely seen as a drag on the country’s economy, Israel’s ultra-Orthodox world is being forced to adapt — with growing numbers embracing technology, pursuing higher education, entering the work force and even serving in the army.

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Experts say tomorrow’s ultra-Orthodox will look much different from today’s.

Gidon Katz, an ultra-Orthodox Jew who runs an advertising and public relations agency in Jerusalem, predicts the change ‘‘will happen on its own.’’