The results of a survey published today as part of the Jewish People Policy Institute’s Jewish Pluralism in Israel Index, supported by the William Davidson Foundation, finds that almost 90% of Jewish Israelis feel “comfortable” or “very comfortable” to be themselves in Israel. Comfort is greatest among those who define themselves further to the right on the political or religious spectrum (22% of the sample); over 90% feel “very comfortable” or “quite comfortable” “being themselves” in Israel. Among those who define themselves as belonging to the left (4.9% of the sample), nearly half do not feel comfortable being themselves in Israel. A significant majority of the Israeli Jewish public (over 80%) feels that “secular, traditional, and religious Jews are all equally good Jews.”
Public perceptions about which specific sectors of Israel society “contribute” more or less to the success of the country are that soldiers are viewed most positively, significantly more than any other group. Two groups whose children tend not to serve in the military, Muslim-Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox, are perceived as contributing least to the success of the country. Interestingly, the Druze community is held in a relatively positive light. Other notable findings include: Diaspora Jews are viewed more positively than Israelis who choose to live abroad; and the majority of Israelis appreciate the contribution of Ethiopian immigrants. “This is because Israelis care most about those who share the burden of living in the state,” according to JPPI President Avinoam Bar-Yosef.
The Index finds that there are different, sometimes opposing understandings of the meaning of “pluralism” and how it should be implemented in Jewish-Israeli society. Despite this, the Israeli Jewish public tends to accept pluralistic values even with the sharp religious and political differences among its society’s various groups. JPPI defines Jewish pluralism as: “The condition in which Jews of different social classes, ideologies, religious streams, levels of beliefs and practices, genders, and ethnic backgrounds have equal opportunity to legitimately exercise their differences in the public sphere.”
Bar-Yosef said that the survey was conducted as one component of its Jewish Pluralism in Israel Index, which itself is part of a comprehensive JPPI project on pluralism in Israel and among the Jewish people. The project is being led by JPPI Senior Fellow Shmuel Rosner. “At this point, the research will focus on the Jewish population in Israel. Next year, JPPI will undertake a special effort to examine how sustaining a Jewish framework affects Israel’s minorities.”
Bar-Yosef added that “The index is intended to provide a yearly and objective measurement that goes to the ability of each Jew to feel at home in the Jewish state. Seemingly, there is a significant gap between the problematic image of Israeli society held by some of world Jewry, that it is not liberal, open, or welcoming enough, and the picture that arises from the research that led to building the Index. My assessment, based on the research conducted so far, is that there is a tension created between the desire of the vast majority of Israeli Jews to maintain a unifying structure and a Jewish character to the state, and between the goal shared by many Diaspora communities, especially their more liberal elements, to welcome and embrace all those who identify as Jews and who feel some sort of connection to their roots.”
Sixty percent of Israeli Jews believe civil marriage should exist in Israel according to the JPPI survey. More than 56% of Israeli Jews think the Israeli government should be more considerate of minority opinions, while almost 48% feel there is too much freedom of expression in Israel. Additionally, the survey finds that 44% of Israeli Jews would like non-Jews to also attend their children’s schools.
Other issues relating to pluralism examined in the survey show that most Jews feel that “There is no need to allow women to wear tefillin (phylacteries) at the Western Wall.” A significant majority is opposed to the statement: “It is preferable that homosexuals not serve as Knesset members.”
The survey, conducted by Panels Politics, sampled 1031 individuals. The breakdown of those respondents who self-identified by religious affiliation is as follows: 30.4% secular; 20.8% secular traditional; 22.5% traditional; 4% as liberal religious; 10.3% as religious; and 10.1% as ultra-Orthodox (Haredi).
Statistical analysis for the Pluralism Index and the methodological development was led by Professor Steven Popper, a Senior Fellow of the Institute, together with JPPI Senior Fellows:Professor Uzi Rebhun, a demographer; Dr. Shlomo Fischer, a sociologist; Shmuel Rosner; and Noah Slepkov, a Fellow of the Institute.