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After she finished a radio interview recently, she said, the station brought on a sitting Haredi lawmaker who said that women did not belong in politics just as they did not belong working at a garbage dump, “because politics is garbage.”Actually getting elected, however, would require something approaching a miracle: Ms.Zernowitski’s chosen party, Labor, is in a shambles.Zernowitski addressed a roomful of activists and retirees who snapped up her brochures.Afterward, Izzy Almog, 81, holding his cane, smiled up at her from his seat.“Don’t be offended, but I don’t know what your chances are,” he said. Zernowitski has been around politics long enough to know how tough it can be.“I believe that if you open the door, these people will come and vote,” she says.The experts say she is unlikely to test that premise.“She has no chance,” declared Gilad Malach, an expert on the ultra-Orthodox at the Israel Democracy Institute. Zernowitski, if ahead of the curve, was nonetheless onto something: The Haredi parties are calcified and vulnerable to breakaway voters, he said.“On the day that an ultra-Orthodox representative will be successful outside the classic political parties,” he said, “there’s a chance more people will choose that party because it works.”At a Labor candidates’ night in Jerusalem, Ms.She rails against the state-funded but privately run ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, education system, where, she says, “your background” and “who you know” determine “who gets into the good schools.” She recounts how she became a trailblazer as an ultrareligious woman in tech, but laments how her children are stuck “in the same place I was before.”She blasts the Haredi parties, which she says are a half-century behind the times on women’s rights, gay rights and many other issues, and the right-wing government over which those parties hold outsize sway, because she says it ignores problems affecting Haredi communities for fear of antagonizing its coalition partners.And she explains, like an emissary from another planet, to urban hipsters who may never have talked with their black hat- or wig-wearing neighbors, that a “revolution” is underway among the ultra-Orthodox: The “new Haredim,” as she calls them — younger, worldlier people who use smartphones and commute to diverse workplaces in the big cities — are hungry for change, dying to engage with and be embraced by broader Israeli society, and ready like never before to break ranks at the ballot box.“There’s a huge gap between what the ultra-Orthodox establishment is doing and what the people want,” Ms. A man rises with a question for all five candidates: How can we bring more people with skullcaps into Labor?
Zernowitski were sympathetic until someone brought up public transportation on the Sabbath, which the ultra-Orthodox oppose but many nonreligious Israelis support.“I think everyone wants Shabbat to be a little different,” she began.“Don’t kid yourself! Finally, with all the other candidates long gone and a janitor hovering outside, Amiram Alon, 18, ran out of questions.Zernowitski was part of the first class of women at a technical college for the ultra-Orthodox.She learned coding, got a job in tech and moved up from developer to project manager over 15 years.But there’s an extra burden on women due to the disproportionate amount of single men.As Jon Birger wrote in his 2015 book “Date-Onomics: How Dating Became A Lopsided Numbers Game,” in the Orthodox dating pool there are 12 percent more available women than men.