Modi’in Illit [Photo Credit: עמית לנדאו]
Modi’in Illit (Upper Modi’i’n) is a haredi or ultra-Orthodox Israeli settlement located approximately halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The biblical name of the town is Kiryat Sefer (Town of the Book). Two thousand years ago, the town of Modi’in was inhabited by Matityahu, the eldest son of Yochanan, the High Priest. Matityahu was one of the leaders of the Macabim, the team of Jewish rebels that defeated the Greek armies in the story of Hanukkah. During the time of Matityahu, as is the case today, the city was a center of advanced Torah learning.
The original builders of the city of Modi’in Illit created the first neighborhood and called it Kiryat Sefer in keeping with biblical tradition. The homes in Kiryat Sefer were completed in 1993 and the city of Modi’in Illit was officially recognized by the government on March 13, 1996. Developed by private entrepreneurs and landowners, the neighborhood of Kiryat Sefer is the largest privately owned community in Israel.
An estimated 80 percent of the population is under age 30, and in 2006 the city’s median age stood at 10, the lowest of all Israeli municipalities. There are many immigrants, mostly from England, France, Switzerland and the United States. The entire population of Modi’in Illit comprises observant Jews. Most residents are Ashkenazi Jews in the Lithuanian tradition, but there are also Sephardi Jews.
Modi’in Illit was granted city status by the Israeli government in 2008. In 2016 it had a population of 66,847. The city is located in the portion of Israel that was designated for the tribe of Benyamin.