JPPI Israeli Society Index

More than 80% of the Jewish public in Israel call to “amend” ultra-Orthodox service exemption

Despite warning by Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, 74% of the ultra-Orthodox say that even if they had the option, they wouldn’t leave Israel.

The Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) March Index survey paints a complex picture of public opinion in Israel, especially regarding the politically pivotal issue of ultra-Orthodox participation in national service and IDF enlistment.

Dr. Shuki Friedman, Vice President of the Jewish People Policy Institute, noted on the report’s findings: “The war has sharpened the need for the participation of all segments of society in carrying the burden of the country’s security. In this context, a vast majority of Israelis believe that the social contract needs to be renegotiated and that the ultra-Orthodox should also be enlisted in serving the country. It can be assumed and hoped that broader partnership will have a positive impact on social cohesion, and accordingly upon Israelis’ optimism about the country’s future.”

The survey shows that there is a solid majority among Israeli Jews (81%) for changing the current situation of exemptions granted for ultra-Orthodox from military service, with 45% supporting coercive measures and 36% preferring persuasive methods. Only a negligible minority (8%) finds the current arrangement desirable. It is also noteworthy that support for the enlistment of the ultra-Orthodox transcends political camps.

Despite their traditional leadership’s opposition, one-third of Arab citizens themselves support the integration of their community’s youth into military or national service.

Indeed, the report notes that 68% of Jews and 29% of Arabs support the enlistment of Arabs in the IDF or national service programs, with 28% supporting coercive measures and 40% preferring persuasive methods.

Meanwhile 66% of Israeli Jews believe that the current exemption for religious women from IDF or national service should be abolished, while one-third (33%) see the exemption for religious women as an expression of appropriate respect for their religious faith.

A particularly alarming finding from the Jewish People Policy Institute’s survey is the steep decline in Israelis’ optimism about the country’s future. Within just four months, the percentage of optimists among Jews dropped from 74% in November to 56% in March. The decrease is notable across all political camps. Among Arabs, a consistent majority of 57% remained pessimistic.

However, despite Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef’s warning last week, that, “If the ultra-Orthodox are forced to go to the army, we will all leave the country”, 74% of the ultra-Orthodox say that even if they had the option, they wouldn’t leave Israel.

However, disturbingly, about a quarter of all Israelis – 27% of Arabs and 23% of Jews – would choose to leave the country if they had a practical option to do so. Among secular young Jewish Israelis, this figure climbs to a third.

Data collection for the Jewish People Policy Institute’s survey was conducted by The Index website (about 600 interviews in the Jewish sector, in an online survey) and APEKAR company (200 interviews in the Arab sector, about half online and half by phone). The report was written by Shmuel Rosner, who edits the JPPI’s Israeli Society Index.