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A quarter of Israeli Jews believe Jewish law should take precedence over democracy

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Jewish Israelis are deeply divided societally, religiously and politically, and are to a large extent tightly stratified within their particular societal sector a new report by the Pew Research Center has shown.

The survey showed that there is very little inter-marriage between haredi, religious-Zionist, traditional and secular Jews, and little societal interaction between the different sectors as well.

The deep division in Israeli society was highlighted by findings that show that Israeli Jews in general are about as uncomfortable for their children to marry a Muslim as secular Jews are for their child to marry a haredi person and vice versa.

Pew’s study also highlighted high levels of support for the application of religious law in Israel, with a quarter of Israeli Jews favoring Jewish law over democracy if the two should clash, and a third of Israelis supporting the idea that government policies should promote religious beliefs and values.

Additionally, the report showed a high level of support among Jewish Israelis for either expelling or transferring Arabs out of the country, with a majority agreeing with the statement that “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel.”

The survey, which also looked at religious and societal sentiment in the non-Jewish population, was conducted through face-to-face interviews in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian among 5,601 Israeli adults, aged 18 and older, from October 2014 through May 2015.

The study divided Israeli Jewish society into four large sub-sectors, secular, traditional, religious-Zionist, and haredi.

Secular Israelis comprise the largest sector, totalling 40% of Israel’s total, population, traditional Israelis are 23%, religious-Zionists 10%, and haredim were 8%, while 14% of the population is Muslim, 2% Christian, and 2% Druze. In total, the Israeli population is 81% Jewish, 19% non-Jewish.

According to the study, 95% of Haredi Jews and 93% of secular Jews have a spouse from the same subgroup, while 85% of religious-Zionist Jews have religious-Zionist spouse.

Traditional Israelis were the only sector to have a somewhat higher rate of intermarriage with other Jewish groups, with approximately 33% of traditional Israelis marrying a religious-Zionist or secular Jew, and 64% of this group marrying within their sector.

And the large majority of Israeli Jews do not have friends outside of their sector. Eight-nine percent of haredi respondents said that most of their close friends are also Haredi Jews, 72 percent of religious-Zionists said most of their close friends were religious-Zionist, and 90 of secular Jews said their friends were mostly secular.

Additionally, the large majority of haredi and religious-Zionist Jews would be uncomfortable with their children marrying a secular person, 95% and 81% respectively, while 93% of secular people would feel the same if their child marries a haredi person and 83% feeling the same if their child married a religious-Zionist person.

These figures are similar to the amount of Israelis Jews who would be uncomfortable for their child to marry a non-Jew, with 97% of Jews who would not be comfortable if their child married a Muslim and 89% saying they would be uncomfortable if they married a Christian.

There is also little societal switching, with the majority of haredi, secular and traditional Israeli Jews remaining in the same religious sector they were raised in.

People raised in the religious-Zionist sector were however much more inclined to identity with a different sector, predominantly the traditional population, with 35% of those saying they were raised in the sector identifying as tradition, 5% saying they were secular and 5% saying they were haredi.

In their attitude to the relationship of religion and politics in public life, the majority of the population, 62%, valued democracy above Jewish law when the two come into conflict, compared to almost a quarter of the Jewish population, 24%, who said Jewish law should be favored in such an instance.

However, Israel’s different sub-sectors see this issue very differently. Fully 89% of haredi Jews think Jewish law should be preferred, as do 65% of religious-Zionist Jews and almost a quarter of traditional Israelis, 23%.

But secular Israeli Jews are overwhelmingly opposed to favoring Jewish law over democracy, with 89% saying they opposed the notion.

And a third of Israeli Jews, 36%, feel that government policies should promote religious beliefs and values in Israel, although 60% oppose.

Once again, haredi and religious-Zionist Jews were very much in favor of the idea, and secular Israelis opposed.

But a majority of traditional Israelis supported the notion that the government should promote religious beliefs and values, with 51% favouring such a position and 46% saying religious should be kept separate from government policy.

A majority of Israeli Jews, 48% agreed that Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel, with 46% disagreeing.

Opinion on this was split decisively on political lines, 87% of the ideologically left opposing expulsion or transfer, 54% of centrists opposing it, 37% of centrist supporting transfer, and 72% of the ideologically right in favour.

In addition, 79% if Israeli Jews said that Jews deserve preferential treatment in Israel, including 97% of Haredim and 96% of religious-Zionists, 85% of traditional Israelis and even 69% of secular Israelis.

The Pew study did not however specify what type of preferential treatment Jews should get however.

The report also looked at how Israeli Jews identify as Jews. Ninety percent of Jews said that being Jewish is important or somewhat important to them, 93% said they were proud to be Jewish and 88% said they feel a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people.

However, there was little agreement as to what the most important components of Jewish identity are.

The idea which was most widely seen as critical to Jewish identity was remembering the Holocaust, with 67% of respondents indicating it as a an essential part of what it means to be Jewish to them.

Forty-seven percent of respondents said leading an ethical and moral life was important, 35% said observing Jewish law, 33% said living in Israel, 27% said working for justice, 18% said eating traditional Jewish food, and 16% said being intellectually curious.

Observing Jewish law as an essential component of being Jewish was much higher in the haredi and religious-Zionist communities than the general populace, while living in Israel was higher in the religious-Zionist sector than the groups.

In terms of religious devotion, or even a feeling that religion is important, a majority of Jews, 56%, say religion is very important or somewhat important in their lives, whereas 44% said it was not too important, or not at all important to them.

Similarly, 50% of Israeli Jews said they never pray, compared to 21% who pray daily and 29% who pray weekly, monthly, or seldom.

Forty-three percent of secular Israeli Jews fasted all day or some of the day on Yom Kippyur, as well as 89% of traditioanl Israelis and almost all religious-Zionist and haredi Jews.

Attendance at a Passover seder service was almost unviersal, with 87% of secular Israelis, 97% of traditional Israelis, 99% of the religious-Zionists and 100% of haredi Israelis participating in this central Jewish ritual.

[Source: The Jerusalem Post]

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