Poll shows support for cuts to haredi sector, skepticism over enlistment law

93% of haredi community opposes gov't measures on religion and state.

Haredi man, IDF ceremony Tal Law Keshev IDF390 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Haredi man, IDF ceremony Tal Law Keshev IDF390
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
A Rafi Smith poll conducted for the religious equality lobbying group Hiddush evinced strong public support for reforms and cuts being implemented by the government to funding for the haredi sector.
Seventy-four percent of the public see tensions between the haredi and secular sectors as the most or second-most serious societal problems; 47% view the right-left political divide as most serious, 32% see divisions between rich and poor as most concerning and 15% believe tensions between Ashkenazim and Sephardim are the most problematic.
Sixty percent said they were in favor of separation of religion and state, an increase from 56% in 2012.
Hiddush said the figure might be inflated due to an assumption by the Israeli public that separation connotes merely a reduction in the influence of haredi political parties and not a total separation of religion and state, as in France and the US.
This explanation is reinforced by the relatively low level of support for the abolition of the state-run Chief Rabbinate, which the Hiddush poll recorded at 30%.
Conducted July 10-24 on a sample of 800 Jewish Israelis, it is the fifth annual survey of opinions on religion and state done by Hiddush and published just before Rosh Hashana.
The current government, driven to a large extent by the agenda of Yesh Atid, has undertaken a series of reforms to the funding of the haredi sector, including cuts to yeshiva stipends, conditioning state benefits on employment, conditioning state funding for haredi education on the teaching of core curriculum topics and drafting haredim into the army.
Among those polled, 75% said they were in favor of a recent and drastic cut in yeshiva budgets from NIS 1.2 billion before 2013 to NIS 422 million for 2014.
Eighty percent expressed support for a recent government decision conditioning housing benefits on being employed or searching for employment; 79% said they were in favor of obliging haredi schools to teach core curriculum subjects, with 63% saying government support should be cut for schools which do not cooperate.
These reforms are planned by the current government but have yet to be implemented due to legal concerns over the revocation of budgets to educational institutions without an alternative framework in place.
Regarding the explosive issue of haredi enlistment, 82% said they were in favor of obligating haredi yeshiva students to perform military or civilian service.
But just 50% of the nonharedi public said they supported the bill to draft haredim, proposed by Science and Technology Minister Ya’akov Peri, which is currently under discussion in a special Knesset committee.
The reasons behind the relative skepticism for the bill are unclear. They may include opinions that enforcement of the law would be lax and, therefore, would not lead to any significant increase in haredi enlistment, or, conversely, that the result would be alienation of the haredi community and deeper societal division.
Despite widespread support for reforms, 76% said they were dissatisfied with the current government’s record on matters of religion and state. This includes 93% of the haredi public, compared with 79% of haredim who were unhappy with government measures on such issues in 2012.
Bayit Yehudi voters were slightly happier with the government’s record on such matters, with 33% expressing satisfaction and 67% less satisfied with recent developments.
Among Yesh Atid voters, 72% said they were dissatisfied with the government’s religion and state policies, although only 52% said they were unhappy with Yesh Atid’s performance in this field; 48% expressed satisfaction with their party’s record.
While the public at large expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s efforts on religion and state, 64% – 71% among nonharedim – said they supported the exclusion of haredi parties from the coalition.
The 2013 poll saw a small rise in support for marriage outside of the Orthodox rabbinate, up from 60% in 2012 to 62%. This includes support for Reform, Conservative and civil marriage.
According to the survey, 67% of the secular public would chose non-Orthodox marriage for themselves or for their children, including 39% who would opt for civil marriage, 20% for Reform or Conservative marriage and 8% for some form cohabitation without marriage.
Broken down according to political affiliation, 64% of Yesh Atid voters would go for non-Orthodox marriage, as would 63% of Labor voters and 80% of Meretz, Hatnua and Kadima voters.
Among Likud-Beytenu supporters, 64% would wed under Orthodox auspices, while 90% of Bayit Yehudi voters would do the same.
Regarding recognition for gay marriage, 56% said they were in favor, and 44% opposed.
As for conversion, 61% said they supported recognition of all forms of conversion currently practiced; 36% favored a type of secular conversion that would include study of Judaism and ceremony of acceptance into the Jewish people, while 25% said they were in favor of all forms of religious conversion, including Reform and Conservative, performed in Israel or abroad.
According to 39%, Orthodox conversion alone should be recognized.
Two thirds of the public, or 67%, said that equal status should be granted to all Jewish denominations, while 33% said that exclusive jurisdiction over matters of Jewish religion should remain solely with the Orthodox rabbinate and rabbinical court system.