Mrs. P writes: "I was very surprised to learn from your blog that in Israel, (the "epicenter" of the Jewish faith, if you will) the norm seems to be mothers putting their kids in day care.
Are Hasidic people and Orthodox Jews a minority in Israel? I always just assumed Israel was very traditional, like the small traditional Jewish neighborhoods here in Manhattan and Brooklyn."
In historical perspective, it must be remembered that the founders of the modern State of Israel were, upon the whole, highly secularized European Jews with strong communist influence. Many of them were only reminded of their being Jewish by the terrible persecution of Jews and the tragedy of Holocaust. Their motive in coming here was not religious, but rather, a blend between the nationalistic and the defensive: "I do not believe in the G-d of Israel, I do not adhere to Jewish tradition, but Jews must have their own homeland so they can properly defend themselves against antisemitism."
This attitude explains the essence of Israel as a secular, not a religious state; also, from here you can trace the influence of the kibbutz, the social-communist unit, on the overall Israeli culture. Another obviously communist hint is the compulsory service of women in the army, a practice unheard of anywhere else in the world.
Of course, many religious Jews came to settle Israel as well, but upon the whole, the policy was and is secular, and furthermore, many religious Jews who came from less developed countries, such as the area of the Magreb and Yemen, were pressured to leave their "primitive" ways.
Today, the society of Israel consists of a wide spectrum, from the completely secular (which used to be a majority, but are proportionally shrinking because they simply did not produce enough children to uphold that status) to somewhat traditional, to religious of various lifestyles, Hassidim of different groups, and more. It's really a very heterogenous society, which is part of what makes living here so interesting.
Regarding daycare: I think that upon the whole, it is of course more acceptable to stay home with one's children in religious communities, but even here, most women work outside the home. Some of them have very large families, which of course makes it all even more stressful. And in the stricter Orthodox circles, where the husband studies in the Yeshiva full-time for a measly scholarship, often the wife works outside the home to support him, a practice which I find extremely unfair.
Following the last point, Miss S. asks: "What do you think about Kollel families? You mention many times that you think it is extremely important for a woman to be a homemaker, but of course, that is only possible if the husband works full time to be the breadwinner of the family. In Jerusalem, there are many families where the woman is the breadwinner and sends her babies to daycare at 3 months old because the husband is learning in Kollel all day and not earning anything beyond a measly stipend. If women are meant to be homemakers and men the breadwinners, then why is the Kollel family model more typical amongst religious families in Israel?"
I have shared my view on this before. In a nutshell, my thoughts are as following: in the ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract, the husband takes upon himself the explicit obligation to support his wife. No religious studies may allow him to say this responsibility is now lifted off his shoulders. It is extremely unfair and taxing for a mother of a young growing family to also be the main breadwinner. Also, it seems, in the circles where it is common, there is an unhealthy attitude telling girls they are not spiritual enough unless they give up their right to financial support from their husbands. Some perhaps can pull it off without obvious damage to their health and sanity, but far too many are exhausted and worn out.
The practical solution, in my eyes, would be to reduce the number of full-time scholars. Not every man is meant to immerse himself entirely in study, and a society based on a large percentage of Torah scholars cannot function without unjustly burdening those who work. In my opinion, only the most talented should dedicate all their time to studying Torah. This would make it possible to give them higher scholarships and the possibility to honorably support their families without putting an impossible burden on the wife.