WASHINGTON—It’s a measure of Nazi effectiveness in destroying the centers of Jewish learning that when Israel was created in 1948, there were just 400 ultra-Orthodox Jewish men in the entire state. Aware of the desire to revive Jewish religious study after the Holocaust, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, cut a deal: Haredi Jews, as the ultra-Orthodox are known, could spend all their time studying the Torah. They wouldn’t have to serve in the military like other Israelis, and they wouldn’t have to work—the state would support them. Like most Jews, the prime minister believed the deal would be short-lived: he assumed that Haredi students weren’t long for the modern world.

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