Bnei Brak is a city located on the central Mediterranean coastal plainin Israel, just east of Tel Aviv. A center of Ultra Orthodox Judaism, Bnei Brak covers an area of 709 hectares, and had a population of 178,288 in 2014.
Bnei Brak takes its name from the ancient Biblical city of Beneberak, mentioned in the Tanakh (Joshua 19:45) in a long list of towns of ancient Judea. The name is also cited by some as continuing the name of the Palestinian village of Ibn Ibraq ("Son of Ibraq/Barak") which was located 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) to the south of where Bnei Barak was founded in 1924.
Bnei Brak was founded as an agricultural village by Yitzchok Gerstenkorn and a group of Polish chasidim. Due to a lack of land many of the founders turned to other occupations and the village began to develop an urban character. Arye Mordechai Rabinowicz, formerly rabbi of Kurów in Poland, was the first rabbi. He was succeeded by Rabbi Yosef Kalisz, a scion of the Vurker dynasty. The town was set up as a religious settlement from the outset, as is evident from this description of the pioneers: "Their souls were revived by the fact that they merited what their predecessors had not. What particularly revived their weary souls in the mornings and toward evening, when they would gather in the beis medrash situated in a special shack which was built immediately upon the arrival of the very first settlers, for tefilla betzibbur (communal prayer) three times a day, for the Daf Yomi shiur, and a Gemara shiur and an additional one in Mishnayos and the Shulchan Oruch.
In the 1931 census of Palestine the population of Benei Beraq was 956, all Jewish, in 255 house.
Bnei Brak achieved city status in 1950.
Until the 1970s, the Bnei Brak municipality was headed by religious Zionist mayors. After Mayor Gottlieb of theNational Religious Party was defeated, Haredi parties grew in status and influence; since then they have governed the city. As the Haredi population grew, the demand for public religious observance increased and more residents requested the closure of their neighbourhoods to vehicular traffic on Shabbat. In a short period of time most of Bnei Brak's secular and Religious Zionist residents migrated elsewhere, and the city has become almost homogeneously Haredi. The city has one secular neighborhood, Pardes Katz. Some names of streets with a Zionist connotation were renamed for prominent Haredi figures, for example, the part of Herzl St. south of Jabotinsky street was changed to HaRav Shach St. Bnei Brak is one of the two poorest cities in Israel.
Bnei Brak is home to Israel's first women-only department store. only one example of gender segregation in what is viewed as an ultra-orthodox city. Bnei Brak was home to one of the original gender segregated bus lines that Israel's courts ruled were illegal. Mehadrin bus lines were a type of bus line in Israel that mostly ran in and/or between major Haredi population centers and in which gender segregation and other rigid religious rules observed by some ultra-Orthodox Jews were applied until 2011. In these sex-segregated buses, female passengers sat in the back of the bus and entered and exited the bus through the back door if possible, while the male passengers sat in the front part of the bus and entered and exited through the front door. Additionally, "modest dress" was often required for women, playing a radio or secular music on the bus was avoided, advertisements were censored.
The Bnei Brak municipality set up an alternative water supply, for use on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. This supply, which does not require intervention by Jews on days of rest, avoids the problems associated with Jews working on the day of restat the national water company Mekorot. Most of the streets are closed on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.
Bnei Brak received national attention when it lost a battle to have women candidate's photos removed from advertisements for Likud's campaign. In the city's ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, women are usually absent from advertisements and billboards because pictures of women are viewed as "sexually provocative". The city's representatives claimed they had been ordered to remove signs picturing Likud contenders such as Miri Regev andGila Gamliel in spite of the fact that the photos showed them in modest dress. The police were summoned and they informed city officials the signs could not be removed. City officials protested that they were only trying to protect the sensitivities of religious residents. On the other hand, Orly Erez-Likhovski, head of the legal department at the Israel Religious Action Center, said this was a victory for gender equality: "“I am very happy that the officials from the Likud didn’t give up, fought the municipality and the police who first arrived on the scene. It shows that the message is starting to penetrate on every level that exclusion of women is illegal and unacceptable. It doesn't always translate to the people on the ground but we see that great progress is being made – even in Bnei Brak, even in the ultra-Orthodox sector. This is an important message.