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Israeli Jews are just as patriotic following the Second Lebanon War and other difficult events of 2006 as they were in 2005, but their faith in government, its institutions and the armed forces has been severely shaken, a new survey indicates.
In some instances, the survey found a small rise in the level of Israelis' emotional identification with the country as a result of the trying year, especially among residents of the North. The study also showed a drop in feelings of patriotism among the 18-29 age group.
The IDB survey on patriotism in Israel was conducted for the Herzliya Conference, which will take place next week at the Institute for Policy and Strategy, IDC, Herzliya.
Even in Israeli terms, 2006 was a year packed with mega-events: Ariel Sharon's stroke; a political "big bang" and a new government; Hamas winning the Palestinian elections; the abductions of soldiers; the war in Lebanon; corruption in the civil service; and the growing threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb.
"The events of the year, and foremost among them the war in Lebanon, make this year's Patriotism Survey essential in examining the condition of the Israeli public's spirit and morale, which is a central part of the nation's strength," the IDC said in a statement.
The poll was conducted in relation to the previous year's survey, with some minor changes in questions. It was undertaken towards the end of December, with a representative sample of 800 people.
The survey found that Israeli citizens draw a straight line between the perceived failures of the political leadership and the country's current situation, but are not willing to give up their emotional attachment to the state and its symbols.
Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed defined themselves as "Israeli patriots," a number similar to last year's survey. According to a Gallup poll conducted in the US in 2005, 72% of Americans described themselves as patriotic.
Most Israelis are in agreement about the values and characteristics that make up the definition of a "patriot" - a willingness to fight for your country, the Hebrew language, Jerusalem, a love of the nation and living in Israel.
Patriotism, it seems, advances with age, with 84% of those 60 years and older describing themselves as patriots in contrast to 51% of those between the ages of 18-29. Sixty percent of this age group described themselves as patriotic in 2005, a 9% decrease following the events of 2006. Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed said they would rather live in Israel than any other country. Residents of the North, who withstood a month of Hizbullah rocket barrages, became more patriotic, the survey found.
Ninety-two percent of those surveyed said they were willing to fight for their country; 83% said they were very proud of being Israeli; 85%-89% said national symbols such as the flag were very important - the same number as the previous year. Ninety-four percent said they were prouder of their "Jewishness" than of their "Israeliness" [83%]. Non-Orthodox religious people were, on average, more patriotic than the secular population, with the least patriotic being the ultra-Orthodox, the survey found. Furthermore, patriotism and identification with the state is steadily in decline in the haredi sector, the survey found.
Those on the political left felt an increase in patriotism in 2006, while those on the right, although remaining highly patriotic, felt a decline in their Israeli pride. New immigrants [those arriving since 1990] felt less patriotic than they did in 2005.
Israelis are proudest of the country's achievements in science, technology and the arts, and least proud of their government and Knesset members, the survey found.
The public suffered a major decline in its level of pride and confidence in the IDF in 2006. In 2005, 88% said they were very proud of the IDF, whereas only 64% felt the same way in 2006, the survey found. The Israel Defense Forces are in third place in terms of their place of pride among the Israeli population, after accomplishments in science and the arts.â€¢