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2019 Annual Assessment

The question regarding visiting Israel serves, in most of the surveys, as a gauge of the sense of attachment. The assumption is that, the stronger the attachment, the greater the desire to choose Israel as a travel destination and to visit the country at least once in the course of one’s lifetime.

The relationship between visiting Israel and the responses to the other questions is significant. Although, in the current wording, we cannot point to causality on one side or the other, it would still be appropriate to investigate, via focused surveys, whether causality lies on the side suggested by some researchers, namely that attachment leads to Israel visits, or whether visiting Israel leads to stronger attachment (the view held by Birthright Israel and MASA organizers). It is likely that there is truth in both.

US Jewry

The AJC surveys of the past two decades (2000-2019) do not show a change in the percentage of Jews who say they have never visited Israel. A similar percentage of Jews who have not visited (57 percent) was also found in the 2013 Pew survey.

European Jewry

Data from the JPR report (based on the 2012 survey) suggests that a large majority of European Jews have either visited Israel or lived there for over a year (87 percent), per the following breakdown: 89 percent for Sweden, Belgium, and the United Kingdom; 88 percent for France, 81 percent for Italy, 78 percent for Germany, 76 percent for Hungary, and 73 percent for Latvia. The findings of the most recent survey, published in 2019, point to a slight increase: 89 percent have visited Israel at least once.

Canadian Jewry

Israel visit figures for Canadian Jews are high: only 20 percent reported that they had never traveled to Israel; 36 percent had visited once; 20 percent had visited three times; 10 percent had visited 6-10 times, and 7 percent had more than 11 visits. Another 7 percent were born in Israel. This contrasts with the 43 percent of American Jews who have visited Israel. The average number of trips to Israel made by the Canadian respondents was 5.1. Ninety-two percent of Orthodox respondents had visited Israel, as had 84 percent of respondents under the age of 45.

Australian Jewry

The Gen08 survey findings indicate that 86 percent of respondents had visited Israel at least once (50 percent of Melbourne respondents and 45 percent of Sydney respondents said they had visited three or more times). A 1991 survey conducted in Melbourne found an Israel visit rate of 73 percent (compared with 87 percent in a 2008/9 survey).

The Gen17 survey showed an additional increase. Ninety-two percent of the respondents reported having visited Israel at least once in their lives. Over 60 percent had traveled to Israel three or more times (62 percent from Melbourne, and 61 percent from Sydney). A fifth of the respondents had actually lived in Israel for a year or more.

Beyond the questions included in this index, the following remarks may shed light on the current status of Israel-US Jewry ties:

The “Family” Metaphor

In the past two years (2018, 2019), AJC surveys included a question that frames respondent attitudes toward Israeli Jews in terms of a “family” metaphor. In both years, a large proportion of respondents tended to relate to Israeli Jews as extended family (38.9 percent in 2018, and 43 percent in 2019). A sizeable group of respondents did not view Israeli Jews as family at all (31.1 percent in 2018, and 28 percent in 2019). Here as well, religious stream affiliation influenced responses: among Haredim (ultra-Orthodox), most respondents viewed Israeli Jews as siblings (46.4 percent). In many other groups, Israeli Jews were regarded as extended family, but among Reform and secular Jews, a substantial segment did not view them as family (34.4 and 33.3 percent, respectively).

Sense of responsibility for ensuring that Israel continues to exist

The two Australian surveys looked at a wide variety of issues that are not addressed in other surveys, and that can shed a little light on the sentiments of Australian Jews. One question, for instance, relates to the sense of responsibility felt toward Israel. Eighty-eight percent of the survey respondents agreed with the statement, “I feel a sense of responsibility to ensure that the State of Israel continues to exist.” Levels of agreement with the statement climbed with age: 83 percent in the 18-29 age cohort; 82 percent in the 30-39 cohort; 88 percent in the 40-49 cohort; 90 percent in the 40-49 cohort; 90 percent in the 50-59 cohort; 91 percent in the 60-69 cohort; 93 percent in the 70-79 cohort, and 96 percent in the 80-89 cohort.

Jews’ opinions on Israel

Many of the questions cited in this index are not suited to Israeli respondents, as they deal with the issue of ties to Israel. If we are to complete the numerical picture regarding Israel-Diaspora relations, we have to understand the views held by the Israeli Jewish public. To ensure consistency and facilitate comparison, we looked at Israeli views based on the main questions cited in this index, adjusted as necessary for the Israeli public.5

1. Sense of closeness to Diaspora Jews

No question about the sense of closeness to Diaspora Jews was asked directly in any of the surveys we examined. However, a number of questions that were asked offer hints about this sentiment. For example, JPPI’s Israeli Judaism survey (2018) asked Israelis whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement: To be a good Jew is to be concerned about other Jews, whoever they may be. Over 90 percent of Israeli respondents agreed: 31 percent very strongly agreed; 45 percent strongly agreed; and 16 percent somewhat agreed. Only 8 percent did not agree with the statement at all. A higher level of agreement was found among religiously-observant respondents: only 1 percent of the liberal-religious6 and religious did not agree, and none of the self-defined “Dati-Torani” or more strictly-observant religious respondents did not agree. In contrast, 18 percent in the completely-secular group did not agree at all with the statement.
The 2014 IDI survey included the question: Are you interested in knowing what is happening with Jews in the Diaspora? The majority of respondents answered that they did want to know (42 percent said they were very interested, and 39 percent that they were fairly interested – 81 percent combined). Only 18 percent responded that they were not interested at all. Interest levels were slightly lower among the younger age cohorts (76 percent of those aged 18-21 said they are very interested, and 77 percent of those aged 22-24).

The sense of closeness is also reflected in the willingness to invest Israeli resources in Diaspora Jewry. The Ruderman survey (2019) asked whether Israel should take part in funding programs such as Birthright Israel and MASA. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said that in general it should, versus 14 percent who felt that in general it should not. Young adults ages 18-24 were less in favor of funding such programs (70 percent), compared with respondents in the 65+ age range (85 percent). Secular, traditional and religious Jews viewed such funding more favorably (80, 79, and 79 percent, respectively) than did Haredi respondents (52 percent).

In a 2016 study by Israel’s Government Advertising Agency (LAPAM), 27 percent of respondents agreed that Israel should invest resources in the Jewish identity of Jewish communities in the Diaspora, just as it invests in Jewish culture and identity in Israel. Agreement with this idea correlates with religiosity level: 9 percent of atheists agreed compared to 24 percent of secular Jews; 35 percent of traditional Jews; 32 percent of religious Jews; and 43 percent of Haredim. When asked How much, in your opinion, should the State of Israel invest in strengthening the Jewish people in the Diaspora?, 43 percent of respondents agreed that Israel should invest another half a billion shekels; 48 percent felt that the state should invest up to 200 million shekels, and 9 percent said they did not support any investment in Jewish identity.

In another question, 55 percent of respondents agreed strongly that the state should help Jews in distress, even if they do not immigrate to Israel; 21 percent opposed such assistance.

Table 5: Closeness to Diaspora Jews*

To be a good Jew is to be concerned about other Jews, whoever they may be. JPPI 2018 Should Israel take part in funding programs such as Birthright Israel and MASA? Ruderman 2018 Agree that Israel should invest resources in the Jewish identity of Diaspora Jewish communities Israel’s Government Advertising Agency Are you interested to know what is happening with Jews in the Diaspora? IDI 2014
Total – agree 92% 77% 91% Interested – 81%
Total – do not agree 8% 14% 9% Interested – 18%

* Gaps exist in some places when respondents did not answer the question

2. Caring about Jews around the world is an important part of my being a Jew


JPPI’s 2018 Dialogue survey asked participants about the extent to which they agree with the statement: Caring about Jews around the world is an important part of my being a Jew; 89.6 percent of the Israeli respondents agreed (versus 91.1 percent of US respondents, and 87 percent of respondents elsewhere in the world).

3. The future of Israel-Diaspora relations


The 2019 AJC survey, as noted, asked Israeli respondents to answer the following question: Looking ahead five years, do you think that the ties between American and Israeli Jews will be stronger than today? Thirty percent answered that the ties will be stronger, 23 percent said they will be weaker, and 38 percent anticipated no change.

The February 2019 Ruderman Family Foundation survey asked another question: How would you define, today, the relationship between Israel and the United States Jewish community? Fifty-seven percent of Israeli respondents said that the relationship is, on the whole, good; 30 percent described it as reasonable; and 7 percent felt it was, on the whole, bad. There were no meaningful differences between age cohorts, but there were differences associated with religious identity. Religious respondents saw the relationship as being better (71 percent described the relationship as good, versus 65 percent of the traditional respondents, 63 percent of the Haredi respondents, and 48 percent of the secular respondents). None of the religious or traditional respondents felt the relationship was bad, compared with 2 percent of the Haredi and 13 percent of the secular respondents.

The Pew 2016 study, Israel’s Religiously Divided Society, looked at Israeli public opinion vis-a-vis Diaspora Jewry. Respondents were asked about their level of agreement with the statement: Israeli and American Jews share a common destiny. Seventy-five percent of respondents said they agreed to a great extent or to some extent with this statement. The percentage of those who agreed was higher among Haredim (88 percent) than among the religious (77 percent), the traditional (74 percent) and the secular (72 percent).

IDI (2014) and the Government Advertising Agency looked at agreement levels for a similar statement: Jews in Israel and the Diaspora share a common destiny. Most of the IDI survey respondents said they agreed with this statement (41 percent strongly agreed, and 22 percent somewhat agreed); 20 percent responded that they somewhat disagreed; and 15 percent said that they strongly disagreed. The percentage of those who agreed was lower among the younger age cohorts – 40 percent. As did the Pew survey, this survey showed higher levels of agreement among Haredim (71 percent strongly agreed, 10 percent somewhat agreed) than among religious and traditional respondents (43 percent strongly agreed, 22 percent agreed) and among secular respondents (28 percent strongly agreed, 27 percent somewhat agreed). Another sector, which was not delineated in the Pew survey, was the “nationalist” group. For this group, agreement levels were high – 61 percent strongly agreed and 14 percent agreed. According to the Government Advertising Agency survey, 61 percent of the Israeli public feels that Jews in Israel and the Diaspora have a common destiny, while 16 percent do not.

Table 6: Jews in Israel and the Diaspora Share a Common Destiny

Pew 2016 Government Advertising Agency 2016 Israel Democracy Institute 2014
Total – agree 75% 61% 63%
Strongly/definitely agree 28% 32% 41%
Agree 47% 29% 22%
Total – disagree 23% 16% 35%
Somewhat disagree 19% 9% 20%
Strongly disagree 4% 7% 15%
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