Haredim score higher than others on optimism - survey

Despite lower levels of income and employment, haredim tend to be considerably more optimistic and satisfied with their lives than other groups in Israeli society, according to data released Sunday by the Central Bureau of Statistics. In 2004, the CBS surveyed a representative sample of 7,616 Israelis aged 20 or over, reflected a population of 4.2 million. According to the survey, 81 percent of Israelis defined themselves as Jewish, 12% defined themselves as Muslim, 3.5% Christians, 1.5% Druse, 1.5% atheists, and one-half of one percent belonged to other religions. It asked Jews to define themselves as either haredi, Orthodox, traditional-religious, traditional-not-very-religious or secular. Non-Jews were asked to identify their religion and define themselves as either very religious, religious, not very religious or not religious. The survey found considerable gaps in employment between haredim and other citizens, as well as noting strong differences between them and the national average in income, vehicle ownership, and population density. Seventy-two percent of haredim said they lived in households with a per capita monthly income of no more than NIS 2,000. This number was just 20% among secular and 36% among Orthodox respondents. Some 27% of haredim surveyed said they lived in a household in which there were two or more people to a room. In contrast, just 6% of the Orthodox and 2% of the secular said they did. While 29% of haredim have at least one car, other groups ranged between 60% and 73%. Over one-third of haredi households did not even have a breadwinner. This was true of only 17% of secular households, far below the 25% among Orthodox and 36% among haredi Jews. Overall, 32% of haredim said they had jobs, compared to 66% among the Orthodox and 73% of the secular. Only 25% of haredi women said they worked full-time, and 55% of haredim said they did not work at all. In contrast, 42% of Jewish women overall said they worked full-time, and a similar number said they were unemployed. Despite this, however, haredim tended to be happier, more optimistic, and less lonely than other respondents. Some 96% of haredim said they were satisfied with life compared to 81% to 89% for other groups; 62% said they thought their lives would improve, compared to 46% to 50% for other groups. Almost half (49%) of haredim said they had never felt loneliness compared to 29% to 33% in other groups. The number of haredi and secular respondents rose slightly since the previous survey, held in 2002. Eight percent of those polled in 2004 defined themselves as haredi, compared to 6% in 2002; the number of secular Jews rose from 42% to 44%. The margin of error was not reported. Shoshi Becker, educational director of Gesher Educational Affiliates, an organization that tries to bridge differences between religious and secular Jews, said recent political developments had caused further religious rifts. "I would estimate that since the poll was completed in 2004 there are even more people who once defined themselves as Orthodox who now say they are haredi," said Becker. "Many religious Zionists alienated from the state now see themselves as haredim." Becker said that the increasing polarization in Israel had made her job more difficult. "It is very hard to get secular and religious to dialogue," said Becker. "Sides are mutually suspicious and full of stereotypical preconceptions." There was also a gap in the level of religious observance between immigrants from the western world, immigrants from other regions and native-born Israelis. More than half (56%) of the Israelis born in Europe or America defined themselves as secular, compared to 45% of those born in Israel. In contrast, just 13% of those born in Asia and 19% of those born in Africa defined themselves as secular; most Asians and Africans defined themselves as traditional. While 9% of those born in Israel defined themselves as haredi, this was true for only 5% of olim. Immigrants who arrived in Israel after 1990 were also less religious. Only 7% said they were either haredi or Orthodox, compared to 18% of the natives. Some 87% of the immigrants said they were either traditional-not-very-religious or secular, compared to 71% of those born in Israel. Religious Jews both tended to marry at an earlier age and have more children. Only 21% of haredim between the ages of 20 and 29 said they were single, compared to 55% of the Orthodox, 65% of the traditional-religious, 72% of the traditional-not-very-religious and 77% of the secular. Some 23% of haredim had five or more children compared to the national Jewish average of 2.4%. There were no secular or traditional-not-very-religious families surveyed that fell into this category. The survey also analyzed patterns among Israeli Arabs. Eleven percent of Israeli Arabs defined themselves as very religious, 49% religious, 21% not-so-religious and 18% not religious. In contrast to Jews, where the levels of religious observance were similar for men and women, Arab women were considerably more religious than Arab men. Some 16% of Arab women surveyed defined themselves as very religious, compared to just 7% of the men. More than half of Arab men defined themselves as either not very religious or not religious at all compared to just 29% of the Arabic women. Older Arabs were also more religious, with 81% aged 60 or more defining themselves as very religious or religious compared to just 50% among those aged 20 to 29. Very religious Arabs said they were more satisfied with their lives and economic situation than less religious Arabs - but they were also less optimistic about the future.