In the evening hours, as their friends are still leaning over the Talmud pages, they leave the yeshiva and replace their hats and suits with sportswear. They enter the gym and engage in lifting weights and pedaling.
They are 24 yeshiva students taking part in a first-of-its-kind course, which will eventually make them gym trainers.
The course was initiated by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry in a bid to help members of the ultra-Orthodox community integrate into the workforce. Gideon Zaken, head of the ministry's Jerusalem district, recently approached the Buot center, which specializes in training haredim in swimming and water therapy professions and asked for a workplace to train haredim.
The center's CEO, Zvika Hendels, came up with an idea: "In the past few years, more and more haredim are becoming interested in health and fitness, so why not have haredi fitness instructions?"
The ministry's professional training department adopted the idea and even decided to subsidize the course. The haredi students, who come from different communities in Israel, are aged 20 to 38. The course lasts nine months, and when it ends they will receive a gym operator's certificate. The course's lessons have been "made kosher" and approved by rabbis.
One of the students is David Schwartzbaum, 30, who is married with two children and studies at the Mir yeshiva in Beit Shemesh. "I have always been interested in health," he says. "I spend half the day at the yeshiva and half the day at the gym. It makes me feel good, and it's healthy."