Birthright participants wave flags and cheer during a recent event in Jerusalem..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Only half of Jewish Israelis wholeheartedly believe that Israel is responsible for the fate of Diaspora Jewry, according to the results of a new Diaspora Affairs Ministry poll acquired by The Jerusalem Post.
Respondents were given five options in answering questions about Israel’s relationship with the Diaspora: strongly agree, agree, somewhat agree, disagree and strongly disagree.
While a total of 50 percent picked the first two options when asked whether Israel was responsible for Jewish continuity in the Diaspora, 30% said they somewhat agreed and 20% said either disagree or strongly disagree.
When anti-Semitism is put into the equation, the figures go up slightly.
Fifty-two percent of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed that Israel had significant responsibility for the security of Diaspora Jewry in the face of anti-Semitism, 21% disagreed.
The poll found that the majority of the respondents were unenthusiastic about investing funds in Jewish identity efforts in the Diaspora. Only 9% strongly agreed that Israel should invest money on Jewish identity in the Diaspora to the same extent it does in Israel, while 18% agreed, 30% somewhat agreed and the rest agreed or strongly disagreed.
The poll was conducted three weeks ago online, anonymously, using a sample of 1,119 people representing the Jewish public in Israel, including 100 youths between the ages of 16-18.
There was a 3% margin of error.
The respondents were also presented with the government’s annual budget (NIS 460 billion), the budget for aliya and absorption (NIS 2.3b.) and the budget for culture, sport and science (NIS 1.9b.). They were then asked how much they thought should be put into strengthening Diaspora Jewry.
An accumulative 43% selected NIS 500 million or more, of which 13% chose NIS 1b. and 9% chose NIS 2b.
– a sum similar to the Culture, Sport and Science Ministry budget. Another accumulative 48% was willing for the state to invest NIS 200m. or less: 24% selected NIS 100-200m., 24% chose up to NIS 10m., and 9% said no investment whatsoever should be made.
As for taking the interests of Diaspora Jewry into consideration when making governmental decisions, only 11% of the respondents said this should not be done, while 49% believed it was very important to do so when making decisions related to security and foreign affairs.
Only 16% of the respondents were aware of how much money Diaspora Jewry invests in Israel, with 60% putting the number at NIS 3b., less than half of the actual sum. The same proportion estimated that Israel invests more that it does in the Diaspora, placing it at NIS 300m. or more.
The ministry’s senior director of Diaspora affairs, Hagay Elitzur, told The Jerusalem Post
that the poll reflected the importance the ministry placed on a reciprocal relationship between Israel and the Diaspora.
“We’re one nation, one family,” he stated. “We wanted to fully understand the perspective of Israelis in this area.”
The ministry will conduct this poll on an annual basis in order to assess the impact it is making on the Israel- Diaspora relationship, he said.
Elitzur opined that there was a basic feeling of mutual responsibility, but that many in Israel don’t really understand what is happening with world Jewry and see this relationship solely from the perspective of Israel and its interests.
“We want to change this perception, to stimulate discussion about our relationship with the Diaspora and its significance,” he said.
He added that the ministry’s objectives in the field were to increase Israelis’ knowledge about Diaspora Jews, to increase the sense of belonging between Israeli Jews and Diaspora Jews, and to generate more involvement and action on issues related to Diaspora Jews.