2020 Annual Assessment

The health and economic crisis in which Israel and the world were mired while the Pluralism Index was under preparation, had no direct bearing on the Index. The purpose of the Index is to identify long-term trends, not to respond to short-term developments. Nevertheless, crises often generate turning points whose impacts persist after the crisis has passed. In this context, it is worth looking at certain Index data relating to groups that have figured prominently in the current crisis.

Two such statistics relate to the attitude of non-Haredi Israelis toward Haredi Israelis. Over the course of the coronavirus crisis, much attention has been paid to the way Haredi society has coped with the government issued directives that have necessitated severe modifications of daily life in Israel. Haredi society has relatively little trust in the major state institutions, and this has been reflected in the fact that major subgroups within it were slow to implement guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and other governmental decision-makers.1 The conspicuousness of these groups – the need to attend to them separately, their infection rates, and the necessity of devoting special resources to them – may have an impact on both the internal Haredi system (leadership, values, attitudes toward state institutions) and on the attitudes of other Israelis toward the Haredim.

Each year, the Pluralism Index assesses attitudes toward different groups within Israeli society, and the Haredim consistently place at the bottom of the “contribution to the state” scale (this doesn’t mean they don’t contribute, but rather that other Israelis perceive them as not contributing). They rank low on the scale again this year, and when we adjust for the responses of Jews and non-Jews, the Haredi contribution to the state is perceived as the lowest of all the groups assessed (the current Index looked at 17 groups; for most of them, there was no real change from last year).

This year, the “contribution to the state” query was supplemented by a more detailed question aimed at discovering whether Israelis feel that Jewish societal attitudes toward various minority groups are “not positive enough,” “positive,” or “too positive.” On this question (as on the “contribution to the state” question), there was a real disparity in the responses according to the respondent’s place on the religiosity scale. Half the secular population feels that attitudes toward Haredim are too positive. In contrast, half of the Masorti (traditionalist) and religiously observant (non-Haredi religious) respondents indicated that attitudes toward the Haredim are positive, or not positive enough. That is, they think that current attitudes should be maintained, or improved. As noted, these data were gathered during, and against the background of, the coronavirus crisis. They reflect attitudes toward the Haredim during a given period characterized by the tumult of the crisis. The data need to be re-examined in the coming years, to determine whether, and to what degree, they changed after the crisis, and also in relation to developments within Haredi society itself, if any.