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A significant 37 percent of Israelis consider the haredim the most hated group in Israel, according to a new study conducted ahead of the memorial day for the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by the Gesher organization.
Some 15% said the same of new immigrants from countries of the former Soviet Union, while about 13% said that settlers in the West Bank and the former Gaza Strip settlements were the most hated.
The respondents were asked to say who they believed to be hated, not whom they personally hated. The numbers therefore reflect not only the opinions of Israelis who dislike certain groups, but also those of Israelis who feel disliked.
According to Aharon Rose, a researcher of haredi society and thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the figures reflect in part haredi society's perception of itself as hated, and not necessarily the level of that hatred in non-haredi circles.
"Many believe that the leadership of the haredi world is happy about this," Rose told The Jerusalem Post following the publication of the study on Tuesday. "According to this view, the perception of being hated helps them to keep their society separate from the general culture."
As proof, Rose pointed to the fact that "haredi media loves to quote incessantly those few who truly hate them. It makes it easier to keep the kids inside haredi society."
For Rose, however, there is also much hatred in the general society that is reflected in the study. Rose doesn't believe that self-perception of the haredim is the whole story.
"I think the haredim are hated in part because they represent to secular Israelis a Jewish past that the secular world hasn't dealt with," he said. "The secular blame the haredim for supposedly causing them to hate the Jewish bookshelf." To put it simply, he adds, "This is a lie. Who has kept that bookshelf alive?"
One of the study's most interesting revelations relates to the responsibility for rifts in Israeli society. A sizable 42.1% of Israelis believe politicians are responsible for the divisions in the people. The media follows closely on the heels, with 39.4% calling it the main culprit for rifts among Israelis. The rabbinical establishment was blamed by 9%.
Asked which events most influenced the society's polarization, Israelis saw the August 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip as a more serious cause for social rifts, the study revealed unsurprisingly. The withdrawal was blamed by 47.7% of Israelis, while 38.8% still said Rabin's assassination was more polarizing than the disengagement. 3.6% of those asked said they believed the 1949 attack on the Altalena, in which Haganah forces fired upon and destroyed the Etzel ship as part of the campaign to merge the Etzel and Lehi forces into the IDF, as the most polarizing event in Israeli history.