Article Library / 2016

2016 Annual Assessment

According to the Pew Report Hilonim are about half (49 percent) of the Jewish population of Israel. We have seen that in fundamental ways, their worldview, especially regarding the Jewish people and religion, culture, and tradition differs from the more traditionally oriented population sectors. They are also prominently (some would say, hegemonically) represented among Israeli elites and in the reality-defining professions of media, law, arts, and academics. Such a population profile is indeed behind the cultural and political “wars” that characterize Israeli society.

Yet, the Israeli Jewish population also contains mechanisms of integration. One very important factor in this regard is the Masorati population. While the Masorati population resembles the Dati and Haredi populations in terms of basic worldview, they very much overlap with Hilonim when it comes to behavior. Like the Hilonim, they are not strictly observant religiously and participate in leisure activities on Shabbat, such as going to the beach and attending soccer games. In their norms of dress and mixing of the sexes they also resemble Hilonim. Furthermore, in some of their attitudes, especially those related to their own personal freedom, they are closer to Hilonim than to the strictly religious groups. Thus, 79 percent oppose gender segregation on public transportation used by Haredim (93 percent of Hilonim oppose it), and 57 percent oppose, and only 37 percent of Masoratim support, Halacha becoming the law of the land. In other words, on many levels the Masoratim are a sort of bridge between Jewish population groups in Israel. Furthermore, the fact that the Hilonim are divided into “Absolute Hilonim” and “Somewhat Traditional Hilonim” also means, that to a certain extent, Israeli society is not characterized solely by a dichotomy of the Hilonim vs. everyone else, but by a continuous spectrum. Religious gradually shades off into secular. To the left of the Orthodox stand the Masoratim, who as we have seen, are still rather conservative and traditional. Next to them are the “Somewhat Traditional Hilonim” who are less traditional and more pluralistic. At the end of the spectrum we have the Absolute Hilonim who are maximally pluralistic and not traditional.

Another integrating factor is the mobility between the various groups, especially the two middle groups: Datiim and Masoratim. About 9 percent of those raised Dati or Masorati no longer belong to those groups (There has been relatively little switching out of the Haredi camp). The Datiim have gained 2 percent of their numbers from other groups and the Masoratim have gained 10 percent. Four percent of those raised Hilonim are no longer so, but 8 percent of their numbers are new arrivals. Thus, it would seem that Datiim become Masoratim and Masoratim become Hilonim: The 9% of those raised as Masoratim who have left were replaced by Datiim who became Masoratiim. That group that left the Masorati camp largely became Hilonim. The fact that Israeli Jews in the course of their lives are “religiously mobile” is an integrating factor promoting understanding between the groups and maintaining social connections.