This study examines the spatialization of work and gender in the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel. In this community, most adult men (about 70%) are voluntarily not employed and devote their time to the study of Judaism's holy texts. Consequently, the adherents' standard of living is usually very poor, and many married mothers add paid jobs to their traditional domestic duties in order to support their especially large families. Relying on insights associated with the gender division of labor and social negotiation in urban public space, this study examines and analyzes the midday scene in an ultra-Orthodox street. Based on in-depth interviews, observations and short street interviews, I show that although ultra-Orthodox fathers shoulder some domestic chores to support the mothers' paid work, these are largely outdoor activities that confer visibility upon the men's limited contribution. In the resultant scene, representations of domestic work by women and children are obscured by the vitality of those presented by men, enhancing and reinforcing the ascendancy of men and their unpaid religious work. The overall composition of the ultra-Orthodox public space bolsters the "old" order at the intersection of gender, work and space.


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pp. 123-154
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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