Almost half of Jewish Israelis favor expelling Arab Israelis from the country, but, as is the case with many other societal issues, they are deeply divided along levels of religiosity, a new report by the Pew Research Center shows.
The survey published on Tuesday divided Israeli Jewish society into four large sub-sectors: secular, traditional, religious-Zionist and haredi (ultra-Orthodox), and also looked at religious and societal sentiment in the non-Jewish population. It was conducted by face-to-face interviews in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian among 5,601 Israeli adults 18 and older from October 2014 through May 2015.
Some 48 percent of Jewish Israelis polled agreed with the statement that “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel,” though the percentage ranged from 54% to 71% for those defining themselves as ultra-Orthodox, religious or traditional; and only about 36% of the secular community felt that way.
Opinion on this also was split decisively on political lines, with 87% of the ideologically left opposing expulsion or transfer, 54% of centrists against it, 37% of centrist supporting transfer, and 72% of the ideologically right in favor.
The report pointed out, however, that its question had simply stated “Arabs” and not specified if they were citizens or not. It also noted that in response to a question from the University of Haifa’s Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in 2015, 32% of Israeli Jews agreed to some extent that “Arab citizens should leave the country and receive proper compensation,” with 64% opposed.
The deep division in society was highlighted by findings that show that Israeli Jews, in general, are about as uncomfortable with their children marrying a non- Jew, as secular Jews are with their child marrying a haredi individual, and vice versa.
Indeed, the study showed that there is very little intermarriage among haredi, religious-Zionist, traditional and secular Jews, as well as little societal interaction between the different sectors.
Pew found that 95% of haredi Jews and 93% of secular Jews have a spouse from the same subgroup, while 85% of religious-Zionist Jews have a 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, while 64% of this group married within their sector.
The large majority of haredi and religious-Zionist Jews, 95% and 81%, respectively, said they would be uncomfortable with their children marrying a secular individual, while 93% of secular Israelis said they would feel the same if their child married a haredi and 83% feeling that way if their child married a religious- Zionist person.
These figures are similar to the number of Israelis Jews who would be uncomfortable if their child were to marry a non-Jew, with 97% saying it would not be comfortable if their child married a Muslim and 89% saying they would feel that way if their child married a Christian.
Meanwhile, 89% of haredi respondents said most of their close friends were also ultra-Orthodox, while 72% of religious- Zionists said most of their close friends were the same, as was the case with 90% of secular Jews.
Secular Israelis comprise the largest sector of society, according to the survey, totaling 40% of the total population, while traditional Israelis were at 23%; 14% Muslim; religious-Zionists 10%; haredim 8%, and 2% each are Christian and Druse. In total, it found, the Israeli population is 81% Jewish, 19% non-Jewish.
The survey also indicated that there is little societal switching, with the majority of haredi, secular and traditional Israeli Jews remaining in the same religious sector in which they were raised.
Those raised in the religious-Zionist sector, however, were much more inclined to identity with a different sector, predominantly the traditional population.
Pew’s study also highlighted high levels of support for the application of religious law in Israel, with nearly a quarter of Israeli Jews favoring Jewish law over democracy if the two should clash, and a third supporting the idea that government policies should promote religious beliefs and values.
In their attitudes toward the relationship of religion and politics in public life, the majority of the overall population, 62%, valued democracy above Jewish law when the two come into conflict, compared to 24% of the Jewish population, who said Jewish law should be favored in such an instance.
Drilling down on the different sub-sectors, however, fully 89% of haredim think Jewish law should be preferred, as do 65% of those identifying as religious-Zionist and 23% of traditional. In contrast, secular Israeli Jews are overwhelmingly against favoring Jewish law over democracy, with 89% saying they opposed the notion.
Meanwhile, more than a third of Israeli Jews, 36%, feel government policies should promote religious beliefs and values in the country, though 60% oppose this. Once again, haredi and religious-Zionist Jews were very much in favor of the idea, and secular Israelis against. Among traditional Israelis, 51% supported the notion, while 46% said religion should be kept separate from government policy.
In another finding, 79% of Israeli Jews said Jews deserve preferential treatment in the country, including 97% of the haredim polled, 96% of religious-Zionists, 85% of traditional Israelis, and even 69% of secular Israelis.
The study did not, however, specify what type of preferential treatment Jews should get however.
The report also looked at how Israeli Jews identify themselves as such, with 90% saying that being Jewish is important or somewhat important to them; 93% saying they were proud to be Jewish; and 88% saying they feel a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people.
Nevertheless, there was little agreement as to what the most important components of Jewish identity are.
The idea most widely seen as critical to Jewish identity was remembering the Holocaust, with 67% of respondents indicating it as an essential part of what it means to be Jewish to them.
Forty-seven percent of respondents said leading an ethical and moral life is important; 35% identified 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, predictably, 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 other groups.
In terms of religious practice, Israelis showed themselves to be very traditional in their attitude to some of the basic Jewish customs and traditions.
Some 63% of Israeli Jews keep kosher at home, while only 34% do not, while 56% said they always or usually light Shabbat candles. More than half, 53%, of secular Jews said they light candles at least sometimes, with 20% saying they always or usually doing so.
Regarding their interactions with God, 66% of Israeli Jews said they attend synagogue at least occasionally, with 27% going at least weekly and 33% saying they never go. The split was 50-50 among those who said they pray at least occasionally and those who said they never pray. Twenty- one percent pray daily, while 29% pray weekly, monthly, or seldom, the study found.
A majority of Jews, 56%, said religion is very important or somewhat important in their lives, whereas 44% said it was not too important or not at all important.
As for the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, 43% of secular Israeli Jews said they fasted all or some of the day on Yom Kippur, as did 89% of traditional Israelis and almost all religious-Zionist and haredi Jews.
Attendance at a Passover Seder is almost universal, with 87% of secular Israelis, 97% of traditional Israelis, 99% of religious-Zionists and 100% of haredim participating in this central Jewish ritual.
Jewish Israelis across the religious spectrum found common ground in expressing massive support for the idea that Jews around the world should be entitled to Israeli citizenship with 98% supporting this notion and 91% saying the Jewish state was necessary for the long-term survival of the Jewish people.