Annual Assessments

2018 Annual Assessment



Dr. Shlomo Fischer


Avinoam Bar-Yosef, Dan Feferman, Avi Gil, Inbal Hakman, Michael Herzog, Dov Maimon, Gitit Paz-Levi, Judit Bokser Liwerant, Steven Popper, Uzi Rebhun, Shmuel Rosner, John Ruskay, Noah Slepkov, Adar Schiber, Shalom Salomon Wald


Barry Geltman
Rami Tal

2018 Annual Assessment

JPPI Pluralism Survey

This year JPPI released its third annual Pluralism Index, a major element of the Institute’s broader pluralism project.1 As part of the Pluralism Index, JPPI conducts an annual public opinion survey of a representative sample of Israel’s population to gauge attitudes relating to pluralism and measure how various segments of Israel’s population relate to each other. JPPI’s pluralism surveys2 were conducted between the years 2016-2018 and included 3415 respondents, 2915 Jews and 500 Arabs. (Arabs were included in the study in 2071-2018.)

The results indicate that: an overwhelming majority of Israelis (84.6 percent), both Arabs and Jews, feel comfortable being themselves in Israel; a significant portion of Israel’s population is willing to have more social integration between inter- and intra-religious groups; Jewish Israelis seem to be more open to social integration with others if they feel those others make a positive contribution to the success of Israel; and a significant perception gap between how Haredim value their contribution to Israel compared to how other groups view the Haredi contribution.


While most surveys of Israelis divide the population into four broad categories of self-reported religiosity: Hiloni (secular); Masorti (traditionist); Daati (religious); and Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox). Jewish respondents in JPPI’s surveys were asked to self-identify as one of the following: Totally Hiloni (Totally Secular, 33.4 percent), Somewhat traditional Hiloni (somewhat Traditional Secular,17.8 percent); Masorti (Traditionist, 22.7 percent), Daati Liberali (Liberal-Orthodox)3 (2.5 percent); Daati (Religious (7.6 percent); Nationalist Haredi4 (3.9 percent); Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox),11.9 percent); or ‘mixed/not possible to say’ (0.2 percent).5 Adding the three extra categories of religiosity enables higher-resolution analysis and further explicates the heterogeneity of the Jewish community in Israel.

In addition to the religiosity groupings, Jewish respondents were asked to which religious stream they belonged: Orthodox (35.8 percent); Conservative (4.7 percent); Reform (5.7 percent); no stream (51.9 percent); an additional 1.9 percent gave no response.

The question of belonging to a stream of Judaism helps define a fundamental characteristic that distinguishes between the Totally-Hiloni and the Somewhat Traditional Hilonim . 3.4 percent of the Totally Hilonim indicated that they belonged to the Orthodox stream compared to 20.5 percent of the Somewhat Traditional Hilonim. 82.9 percent of the Totally Hilonim indicated that they didn’t belong to any stream compared to 60.3 percent of the somewhat Traditional Hilonim . That even a small percentage of Israelis who define themselves as Totally Hilonim affiliate with the Orthodox stream can be explained not so much in terms of ideological or theological belief, but rather in that they identify Orthodoxy with traditional or ‘authentic’ Jewish practices. This idea is captured in the old adage “the synagogue I don’t attend is Orthodox.” In the coming months, JPPI will be releasing an extensive study on ‘Israeli Judaism’ which explores the beliefs and customs of Jews in Israel with significant depth and analysis.6

With regard to political ideology, within the three years of survey data, Jewish Israeli respondents placed themselves on a political spectrum as follows: Left (6.1percent); Moderate Left (10 percent); Center (27.3 percent); Moderate Right (32.8 percent); and Right (23.8 percent). The correlation between political ideology and religiosity level is quite apparent7: 33 percent of the Totally Hiloni self-identify as left of center, compared to 15 percent among the somewhat Traditional Secular, 6.6 percent among Traditionist, 7 percent among the Liberal Orthodox, and 2 percent or less among the Religious and Ultra-Orthodox sectors. The political differences among the groups are even more stark when considering that immigrants from the former Soviet Union predominately identify as Totally Secular (61 percent), accounting for 26 percent of that demographic, are themselves more center-right. When excluding the immigrants from the former Soviet Union, 39% of the totally-seculars are left of center (left and moderate-left) compared to 15% of the Secular, somewhat Traditional.


The survey asked respondents: “How comfortable do you feel being yourself in Israel?” Although the results are overall very positive with 86 percent of Jews and 78.5 percent of Arabs feeling comfortable, there was a major divide, at least in perception, between Jewish Israelis on left of the political spectrum and those on the right. 45.2 percent of Jewish Israelis who self-identified as left wing reported feeling uncomfortable being themselves in Israel compared to only 7.2 percent of their right-wing counterparts. The findings show that, overall, that the comfort Jewish Israelis feel being themselves in the country increases in direct correlation to how far right they are on the political spectrum.

Unhappiness with the current political situation, which has a governing coalition dominated by more right-wing parties, is one possible explanation for the left’s discomfort. But another, not mutually exclusive, possible explanation why those on the left feel less comfortable being themselves in Israel could be their perceived sense of religious coercion. In their view, it is not just that the government is dominated by right-wing parties, but the political balance of power grants the religious parties disproportionate influence over the status quo as it pertains to religion in the public sphere. Respondents were asked to estimate, on a scale from 1 (none) to 10 (a huge amount) the level of religious coercion and secular coercion that exists in Israel. As with comfort level, the amount of religious coercion perceived by respondents correlates significantly with political self-identification. As visualized in graph 1 below, the average (arithmetic mean) response on the far-left was 8.0 (out 10) while the average response of those on the far-right was 4.7. With respect to the amount of secular coercion in Israel, the correlation was predictably inversed, but the gap between left and right was less pronounced with those on the far-left giving an average of 2.8 and those on the far-right giving an average of 5.1.

As shown in graph 1, far-left respondents perceived the amount of religious coercion in Israel to be significantly higher than the amount of secular coercion, while those on the far-right didn’t really sense a significant difference. Therefore, it is conceivable that the amount of religious coercion sensed by those on the left impacts their ability to feel comfortable being themselves in Israel.

Group Contribution to Israel

JPPI’s survey uniquely asks Israelis to evaluate the extent to which various segments of Israel’s population contribute to the success of Israel. Respondents were asked to rank the contribution on the following scale: 1 (negative contribution), 2 (slightly negative contribution), 3 (slightly positive contribution), 4 (positive contribution). Table 1 below shows the average ranking received by each group among the general Jewish population in the three years that JPPI has conducted the survey and the ranking made by Arab respondents in the two years they were polled by JPPI.

Jewish Respondents ‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ Arab Respondents
Group Contribution Mean Group Contribution Mean
Soldiers 3.84 North Tel Avivians 3
Ashkenazim 3.53 Christian Arabs 2.98
Seculars 3.5 Ashkenazim 2.92
Mizrahim 3.46 Kibbutzniks 2.91
Kibbutzniks 3.36 Reform Jews 2.88
National Religious 3.33 Druze 2.87
Druze 3.28 Seculars 2.87
French Immigrants 3.26 Soldiers 2.79
Russian Immigrants 3.25 Bedouin 2.76
Right-Wingers 3.21 Left-Wingers 2.72
Ethiopian Immigrants 3.13 Muslim Arabs 2.7
Diaspora Jews 2.98 Mizrahim 2.65
North Tel Avivians 2.92 Diaspora Jews 2.43
Settlers 2.83 French Immigrants 2.41
Reform Jews 2.68 Israelis Living Abroad 2.34
Israelis Living Abroad 2.63 Right-Wingers 2.24
Christian Arabs 2.62 Russian Immigrants 2.21
yeshiva Students 2.53 Ethiopian Immigrants 2.04
Left-Wingers 2.49 National Religious 1.99
Haredim 2.35 yeshiva Students 1.9
Bedouin 2.3 Haredim 1.69
Muslim Arabs 1.82 Settlers 1.68

What is perhaps most surprising about the results is that both Jews and Arabs ranked soldiers high in their contribution to the success of Israel. Arab respondents ranked soldiers higher than or equal to themselves. Among Jewish respondents, there is, evidently, a correlation between the rate at which various groups serve in the IDF and how respondents view their contribution. For example, the average perceived contribution Druze make is relatively high (3.28 out of 4) and their rate of participating in the IDF is around 80 percent of those eligible for enlistment.8 Conversely, the average perceived contribution of Haredim, Bedouin, and Muslim Arabs (2.35, 2.30, and 1.82 respectively) are the lowest of all the sectors included in the poll, and their rate of participation in the IDF decreases in the same order.

Table 3 below show the highest and lowest rated groups in Israel based on the level of religiosity of the respondent. While there is a broad consensus about the positive contribution of soldiers, the data especially demonstrates the perception gap between how Haredim view their contribution to Israel compared to a large majority of Israelis whose perception is the reverse.

Haredi respondents rated the contribution of yeshiva students and Haredim as the highest of all groups mentioned in the poll, including soldiers. Conversely, Totally Hilonim and somewhat Traditional Hilonim , representing approximately half of Israel’s Jewish population, rate yeshiva students and Haredim among the lowest contributors. Even Traditionist respondents, who are more engaged with Jewish tradition and practice than secular Israelis and are presumably more likely to be sympathetic toward the Haredim, ranked their contribution to Israel’s success as among the lowest. Secular and Traditionist Jews combined constitute 75 percent of Israel’s Jewish population. However, the self-perception among Haredim is that their own contribution is not only positive, but greater than the contribution of all other segments of the population except for yeshiva students. This perception gap is at the very heart of the tensions within Israeli society and is a major obstacle on the path to societal cohesion.

The issue of how Israelis perceive the contribution made by others seems to influence their willingness for greater social integration within Israeli society. This was apparent in survey responses regarding sending children to mixed schools and acceptance of mixed/inter marriage.

Mixed Schools

The survey attempted to understand why respondents thought it was a good or bad idea to send their children to schools that were either mixed with secular and religious Jews or with Jews and Arabs. Despite that Jewish-Arab mixed schools in Israel are quite rare, 54 percent of Arab respondents and 31 percent of Jewish respondents indicated they thought mixed Arab-Jewish schools were “a good idea because it is good to be acquainted with others and relate to them with respect.”

The greatest divide between Arabs and Jews on the issue of mixed schools was that 33 percent of Jewish respondents versus only 4 percent of Arab respondents indicated that Arab-Jewish schools were “a bad idea because each segment of the population should have specialized education.” Overall, 80 percent of Israeli Arabs surveyed indicated mixed Jewish-Arab schools were a good idea compared to only 39 percent of Jewish Israelis. Predictably, the more secular the Israeli Jew, the more likely s/he thought sending his/her children to a mixed Arab-Jewish school a good idea – a majority of secular Israelis surveyed indicated that it was a good idea.

Enrolling children in mixed secular-religious schools was thought to be a good idea among the Somewhat Traditional Hilonim, , Traditionists, and the Liberal-Orthodox. A slim majority of Traditionists thought it was a good idea because it would “strengthen the bond between Jews from different backgrounds.” The majority of the other religious groups thought sending their children to mixed religious-secular schools was a bad idea. Sixty-three percent of Haredim thought it a bad idea because “it will weaken religious faith and observance” and 32 percent of Total Hilonim thought it a bad idea because “there will be more Jewish studies at the expense of other studies,” and 18 percent of the Total Hilonim feared that “students will become religious or there will be religious coercion.”

In general, Jewish Israeli’s willingness to send their children to mixed schools seems to be influenced, at least in part, by how they view the contribution to the success of Israel made by those their children will be mixed with. Graph 2 below illustrates the relationship between how the general Israeli population views the contributions made by Arab Muslims, Christians, and Druze in relation to whether or not they think it is a good idea to send their children to a mixed Arab-Jewish school. Those who think it is a good idea, on average, rate the contribution made by Arabs higher. Graph 3 below shows the same phenomenon as it relates to secular-religious schools, the higher Jewish Israelis rate the contribution made by someone less or more religious then them, the more inclined they are to the idea of sending their children to mixed schools.


JPPI’s 2018 Pluralism Survey asked respondents how they would react to various scenarios involving a close relative deciding to marry someone from a different religious, national or ideological background.  Given that interfaith marriage cannot officially take place in Israel, the amount of opposition against it is not actually that high. Around 33 percent of Jewish Israelis are indifferent to the idea of a close relative marring a non-Jew. The results of how the general Jewish population responded to the various scenarios are detailed in Graph 4 below.

Analyzing the results of the marriage questions in relation to the level of religiosity of the respondent provides obtains some notable observations. The results indicate that Total Secular Israelis would rather a relative marry someone non-Jewish (who isn’t Arab) than marry someone Haredi, even if the couple lives abroad (see table below).

Totally Secular Israelis on marriage questions:

Would not be happy Doesn’t matter or world be happy
Haredi 52% 48%
Non-Jewish and non-Arab 25% 75%
Non-Jewish and live abroad 42% 58%

Furthermore, Total Hilonim do not show an obvious preference between a relative marring someone National-Religious or someone who is non-Jewish (who isn’t Arab). With the exception of the Haredim, Israel’s Jewish sectors show a clear distinction between a relative marrying an Arab and the other scenarios of marrying someone of a deeply different background or identity, with marrying an Arab the least desirable scenario. The Haredim, uniquely, do not make that distinction. Rather, they view all the scenarios involving relatives marrying non-Jews as equally disturbing. The results also suggest that among the Totally Secular, the younger cohorts are not as disturbed as the older cohorts by a relative marrying an Arab scenario. Ironically, for both Totally Secular and Haredi Israelis the marriage scenario that received the least negative reaction was a relative marrying someone Jewish and living abroad, suggesting that relatives living in Israel is not of paramount importance for them.

The poll showed a sharp contrast between the way Jews and Arabs consider marriage between one another. Fourteen percent of Jewish men and 13 percent of Jewish women in Israel would either be ambivalent or happy if a close family member married an Arab, compared to 59 percent of Arab men and 48 percent of Arab women being ambivalent or happy if a close family member married a Jew. Within Islamic tradition, men are allowed to marry non-Muslim women who are ‘People of the Book’ (Jews and Christians), but Islamic women are not allowed to marry non-Islamic men. This likely explains the difference of opinion between Arab men and women. It should also be noted that Israeli Druze viewed marriage with a Jew the most positively among Arabic speakers , with 87.5 percent responding that they would be ambivalent or happy.

As with the questions relating to children attending mixed schools, respondent approval of the marriage scenarios correlates significantly with questions on relative contribution to Israel’s success. The higher a respondent valued the contribution made by any group, the more receptive the respondent was toward a family member marrying someone from that group.

Republicanism Vs. Liberalism

The results of these surveys are interesting in the light of assumptions concerning the political evolution of Israel, common in the academy and in the media. According to this assumption, the “republican”9 orientation that had historically characterized Israeli citizenship, especially among the secular Zionist Labor movement sector had, since the 1980s, been largely replaced by a liberal citizenship discourse – among the secular elites and the secular population at large – and by an ethno-national citizenship discourse among the religious and Traditionist populations.10 The republican citizenship discourse emphasizes identification with the political collective and contribution to it. The liberal citizenship orientation, in contrast, emphasizes individual rights and individual fulfilment through consumerism and career.11 The ethno-national approach emphasizes that rights and access to resources should be based upon ethno-national belonging.

It is true that on the institutional level, liberal arrangements have come into place in Israel, such as the Basic Laws protecting individual rights (Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedoms- 1992), a Supreme Court that practices judicial review of laws and an independent Central Bank.12 Nevertheless, the survey data indicates that republican attitudes are very much alive on the level of social assumptions. The data indicate that contribution to the collective (Israel) is still the basis for social esteem and makes groups into desirable marriage partners and school mates.


  1. JPPI’s Pluralism Project is headed by its senior fellow, Shmuel Rosner, and supported by the William Davidson Foundation.
  2. JPPI’s Pluralism Survey is headed by its fellow, Noah Slepkov. The actual surveys were conducted by by the Panels Politics company headed by Menachem Lazar.
  3. Daati Liberali translates from the Hebrew as Liberal Religious, but we use Liberal Orthodox here for the sake of clarity. See Note to the Reader on Terminology above.
  4. The 2016 and 2017 surveys used the term Haredali to define this group, while in the 2018 survey the term Dati-Torahni was used.
  5. All percentages are from JPPI’s 2018 survey, unless otherwise indicated.
  6. The accompanying article, “Jewish Identity in Israel in its 70th Year” contains preliminary findings of this study.
  7. For a further discussion about religiosity and political ideology see “Jewish Identity in Israel in its 70th Year”.
  8. The Carmel Portal, “Percentage of Druze Recruits Breaking a Record,” April 4, 2017.
  9. The term republican is used here in the sense of “civic republicanism” which characterized, for a period of time, the Renaissance republics of Florence and Venice and the ancient Roman Republic.
  10. Gershon Shafir and Yoav Peled, Being Israeli:The Dynamics of Multiple Citizenship, Cambridge U. Press, Cambridge UK, 2002.
  11. Compare Benjamin Constant, The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns, 1819.
  12. Some of these arrangements have come under attack recently in the name of nationalist values.