On the eve of Shabbat, thousands of ultra-orthodox Jews are expected to march in an unofficial protest of the government’s decision to restrict the movement of people with religious or national backgrounds from the Jewish state.
The ultra-religious, who have lived in Israel for more than two millennia, have a long history of anti-Semitism and often view any interaction with non-Jews as “un-Jewish.”
The government’s policy is the first in recent memory to be announced in a city where ultra-Jews dominate the population and have long maintained a stranglehold on politics and the press.
They are also seen as a threat to the status quo and the country’s long-held liberal ethos, said Yossi Weiss, a senior fellow at the Herzliya-based Institute for the Study of the Arab World.
“In many ways, they have become a political and ideological minority,” he said.
In recent years, the ultra-Haredi movement has been expanding rapidly.
According to a 2012 report by the Herzliyot Center for Jewish Studies, a national umbrella organization for the ultra, about 4,400 ultra-ultra Jews live in Israel, making up the second-largest Jewish community in the country.
The report noted that the ultra’s growth has come as the country has become increasingly religious, with a majority of Israelis now belonging to some form of religious denomination.
It also noted that more than half of Israeli ultra-visions, a term for ultra-nationalistic movements, were created before Israel was founded in 1948.
“This trend is clearly linked to the growing religiosity of the population, which is also reflected in the increase in the number of ultra, ultra-haredi and ultra-dissident parties in Israel,” said Yishai Dror, a sociologist at the Yeshiva University in Haifa.
“These are not parties which have been born out of a desire to protect Judaism or a commitment to social justice.
They have been created for political ends, and are part of a process of radicalization.”
In Israel, ultra is a catchall term for Jews who have a religious background.
Ultra-orthodox Judaism is a conservative, ultra conservative movement that is closely tied to the traditional religion.
It views Jews who do not adhere to the strict rules of Judaism as heretics and therefore a threat.
Dror said the ultra movement has its roots in an era when there were many immigrants from the Middle East, but it has also spread to include large segments of the Jewish community.
More than a quarter of the country is covered by ultra-tight security laws that are strictly enforced.
The restrictions were imposed as a way to prevent radicalizing young Israelis, who were disproportionately Muslim and had less support from mainstream Jews.
Weiss said ultra-nones have often been victims of violence and discrimination, and he said the government should not treat them as a second class citizens.
While the ultra are largely in their 20s, some in the ultra community are in their 60s and 70s.
The elderly and the disabled are also increasingly likely to be targeted, he said, noting that ultra-minority neighborhoods in Jerusalem are largely segregated by race and gender.
A similar trend has occurred in other Arab-majority countries, where ultra Jews are increasingly seen as an obstacle to the political system, Weiss said.
In Egypt, the Egyptian government has implemented a strict policy of restricting the movement and activity of ultra Jews.
A group of ultra Jewish activists staged a mass demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in September demanding the immediate release of four men detained on the eve, of a demonstration that began peacefully.
After the men were released, a large crowd of ultra Israeli protesters gathered in the square and pelted the men with stones, shouting anti-Semitic and pro-Hamas slogans, as they threw stones at police officers.
Since then, the police have arrested dozens of ultra activists, while police also fired tear gas and pepper spray at protesters who tried to storm a Cairo police station.
Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, a member of the ruling Islamist movement, said in a statement that the Egyptian authorities are “not only targeting us but the entire Palestinian people.”
“Egyptians must wake up to the reality that they are being used as an instrument of the occupation by Israel to impose its agenda on the entire Arab and Muslim world,” Zahar said.
“The only way for Egypt to win back its national sovereignty is for its people to fight the Israeli occupation and its enemies and establish their national identity.”
According the Herzlich Institute, the largest number of Jewish ultra-Israelis live in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
There are also several ultra-Judaic ultra-right parties in Israeli politics.
The Israel Democracy Institute, a conservative think tank, estimated that there are about 400 ultra-Zionist parties in the Jewish national movement