The effect of social service elite groups on long-time residents in peripheral development towns in Israel

Janet Cohen, Miriam Billig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The existence of socio-economic disparities between the geographic periphery and cities in the center is common in many countries. The study evaluates the influence of small nonprofit, faith-based elite groups (Hebrew: Gar'inim Toranim, GTs) that settle in Israeli peripheral development towns. These groups, supported by the religious-Zionist political movement, aspire to enhance Jewish religiosity, reduce socio-economic gaps and empower disadvantaged longtime residents (LRs). The research is grounded in the theory of elites and social mobility. The methodology is based on semi-structured in-depth interviews with LRs and GT members. The study points to variances in perception and differences in the interpretation of the social processes that materialized following the arrival of the GT in the periphery. These gaps are deeper when it concerns relations between unequal parties of "giver" and "receiver," especially when they come from different ethnocultural backgrounds. The study shows that the contribution of GTs to development towns was limited. Only LRs who followed the GTs gained social mobility; those who did not agree to follow the Torani way of life or were economically less privileged were displaced from workplaces and their children were directly or indirectly excluded from the elite schools. Thus, contrary to their stated ideology, the GTs increased social and ethno-cultural inequality for most LRs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5943-5957
Number of pages15
JournalGeo Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Development towns
  • Ethnocultural background
  • Faith-based organizations
  • Periphery
  • Social mobility
  • Social service elite


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