Bnei Brak (or Bene Beraq) (Template:Lang-he-n, Template:Unicode) is a city in Israel, on the central coastal strip, just east of Tel Aviv, in the Dan metropolitan region, the Tel Aviv District. It is the only large city in Israel whose population comprises predominantly Haredi Jews.
Bnei Brak's jurisdiction is 7,088 dunams. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), as of September 2006, the city's population stood at 147,100, growing at an annual rate of 2.0%. Its small physical size and large number of inhabitants make it Israel’s most densely-populated city. It is the poorest city per capita in the Tel Aviv District.
The city has a population of about 147,100 residents (as of September 2006), the majority of whom are Haredi Jews. It also has the largest population density of any city in Israel, with Template:PD km2 to sq mi. It is a very large center for Orthodox Jews. In the 2006 Israeli legislative elections, 89% of the voters chose Haredi parties, and another 7% voted for other religious parties. While the city does not have an official 'religious' status, the migration and development of the population has led to two distinct sections: The northern part of the city as well as the extremities have a significant non-religious minority population while the core of the city is almost entirely religious. While this religious population used to be mainly Religious Zionist, it is now primarily Haredi.
A large part of this religious part of the city is completely closed off to vehicular traffic during the Shabbat (from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday). Virtually all stores in the city are under some form of rabbinical supervision, many having multiple supervisory organizations, and not a single store is open during the Shabbat.
Bnei Brak was founded as an agricultural settlement in 1924 by Rabbi Yitzchok Gerstenkorn and a group of Polish chasidim. Due to a lack of land many of its founders turned to other occupations, and the village began to develop an urban character. Its first rov was Rabbi Arye Mordechai Rabinowicz, a descendant of the Yid Hakodosh and formerly the rov of Kurów in Poland. He was succeded as rov of Bnei Brak by Rabbi Yosef Kalisz, a scion of the Vurker dynasty.
The town was set up as a religious settlement from the outset, as is evident from this description of the pioneers:
- Their souls were revived by the fact that they merited what their predecessors had not. What particularly revived their weary souls in the mornings and toward evening, when they would gather in the beis medrash situated in a special shack which was built immediately upon the arrival of the very first settlers, for tefilla betzibbur three times a day, for the daf yomi shiur, and a gemora shiur and an additional one in Mishnayos and the Shulchan Oruch.
Bnei Brak gained official recognition as a city in 1950.
The famous 20th century rabbi, Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz (known as the Chazon Ish) settled in the village (at the time), and many owe the town's rapid increase in numbers due to his presence. Many see the efforts of Rabbi Yaakov Landau, who served as the chief rabbi of Bnei Brak for 40 years (1936-1986), as instrumental in the fact that Bnei Brak developed into an important religious city. Other famous rabbis who have lived there include Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler, Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky ("the Steipler"), Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman (Ponevezher Rov) and Rabbi Elazar Menachem Mann Shach. Currently famous rabbis who reside in Bnei Brak are Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, Rabbi Shmuel Vozner, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky and Rabbi Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz.
Bnei Brak is also a major hasidic center. Already in the early 1950s, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Meir Hager, founded a large neighborhood in Bnei Brak, which contin ues to serve as the center for the chasidus under his son, Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager (the present Vizhnitzer Rebbe). Beginning in the 1960s, the rebbes of the Ruzhin dynasty (Sadigura, Husiatyn, Bohush), who had formely lived in Tel Aviv, moved to Bnei Brak. In the 1990s they were followed by the rebbe of Modzhitz. Unlike the former four Gerrer rebbes who lived in Jerusalem, its present rebbe (since 1996) is a Bnei Brak resident. Numerous other rebbes live in the city, among them the rebbes of Alexander, Biala-Bnei-Brak, Koydanov, Machnovke, Nadvorne, Premishlan, Radzin, Shomer Emunim. Slonim-Schwarze, Strykov, Tchernobil, Trisk-Bnei-Brak, Zutshke — to name only some of them.
Until the 1970s, the Bnei Brak municipality was headed by Religious Zionist mayors.Template:Fact After Mayor Gottlieb of the National Religious Party was defeated, Haredi parties grew in status and influence; since then they have governed the city. As the Haredi population grew, the demand for public religious observance increased and more residents requested the closure of their neighbourhoods to vehicular traffic on the Shabbat. When they demanded the closure of a main street (HaShomer St. now Kahaneman St.), the non-religious residents protested but the town's religious inhabitants won the battleTemplate:Fact. Since then, their influence in the city was has been in the ascendant.
In a short period of time most of Bnei Brak's secular and Religious Zionist residents migrated elsewhere, and the city has become almost homogeneously Haredi. The city has one secular neighbourhood, Pardes Kats. Names of streets that had had a Zionist connotation were changed and named after prominent Haredi figures, the most recent and final change being the renaming of Herzl St. to HaRav Shach St. The Israeli flag is barely seen in Bnei Brak, since the State of Israel is seen as a secular entity; however, it is certain to be seen flying atop the Ponevezh yeshiva, as the practice was originally instituted by Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman. Bnei Brak is one of the two poorest cities in Israel. It is renowned as a centre of Torah learning, as well as being famous for the high standard of kosher supervision of food in the city.
The current chief rabbi of Bnei Brak, Moshe Landau is renowned as an expert specialist in kosher supervision and Jewish law. Rabbi Moshe Landau took office after the death of his father, Chief Rabbi Yaakov Landau in 1986.
In keeping with its religious status, Bnei Brak boasts Israel's first women-only department store.
At the instigation of the Chazon Ish, the Bnei Brak municipality set up an alternative water supply, for use on Shabbat and Yom tov. This supply, which does not require intervention by Jews on days of rest, avoids the problems associated with Jews working on the day of rest at Mekorot.
Mayors of Bnei Brak
Mayors of Bnei Brak include: Yitzchok Gerstenkorn, Moshe Begno, Reuven Aharonovich, Shimon Soroka, Yitzchok Meir, Shmuel Weinberg, Moshe Irenstein, Yerachmiel Boyer, Mordechai Karelitz, Yissochor Frankenthal.
One of the landmarks of Bnei Brak is the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Kahaneman St. It is owned by the Central Bottling Company (CBC), which has held the Israeli franchise for Coca-Cola products since 1968. It is among Coca-Cola’s ten largest single-plant bottling facilities worldwide. According to Dun's 100, "CBC’s dedication to excellence and innovative technologies in all areas of its operations has won it prizes from the US-based Coca-Cola Company, as well as recognition and accolades from various public institutions for its environmental-friendly operation and ongoing community service".
Two major factories which dominated the centre of Bnei Brak for many years were the Dubek cigarette factory and the Osem food factory. As the town grew they found themselves in the middle of a residential area; both are now closed.
- Israel Tourist Information—Bnei Brak
- Israel's religious city
- Bnei Brak at 75: City of Torah and Chassidus
- Israeli shop opens only to women