The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
Much of the Jewish world has been abuzz since the Pew Research Center released results from its recent survey of Israeli society last week. Pew’s first study of this kind in Israel reveals some deep religious and political divides and has garnered headlines both in the U.S. and in Israel for some of its most provocative statistics related to Jewish pluralism and the rights of Israel’s Arab citizens. But when we look below the surface, at the intricate, complex picture of Israel’s diverse society, what can we learn from this survey – about religious identity in Israel, our relationship with the Jewish state and Israelis’ views on many of the issues we so deeply care about? The following six statistics might give us a fuller, if not a clearer picture.
1. Israelis of all religions are extremely proud of their identity. In perhaps a testament to the openness of Israeli society, over 90% of every religious group surveyed – Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze – expressed pride in their religious identity.
2. 68% of Israeli Jews feel that they have at least something in common with American Jews. The likelihood of feeling this way increases by 10% for Israelis who have visited the U.S. This impresses upon us the importance of deep, authentic connections between Israelis and Americans as a way of strengthening Israel-diaspora relations.
3. American and Israeli Jews largely agree on the two most important elements essential to being Jewish. When asked, “What is an essential part of what it means to be Jewish?” the top two responses in both Israel and the U.S. (according to the 2013 Portrait of Jewish Americans) were “remembering the Holocaust” and “leading an ethical and moral life.” After that, responses do diverge, with Israelis prioritizing Jewish law and connection to Israel and Americans highlighting work for equality and intellectual curiosity.
4. 60% of Israeli Jews believe that religion should be separate from government policies. As a Movement that sees such a separation as a helpful step along a path towards encouraging religious pluralism in Israel, it is encouraging to see that a sizeable majority of Israeli Jews share our belief on this issue.
5. Jews are generally divided over women’s prayer at the Kotel. As we continue to watch for the Israeli government to implement the historic agreement over the Kotel that was reached earlier this year, it is important to recognize that only two percentage points separate those who support and oppose women praying aloud at the Kotel. However, Jewish women of all religious backgrounds support women’s prayer more than their male counterparts.
6. Jews largely oppose gender segregation on public transportation. This is an issue that unfortunately has been all too prevalent in Haredi neighborhoods, and one that our partners at the Israel Religious Action Center have worked very hard to address. Thankfully, they have the support of the Jewish Israeli public, 79% of whom oppose gender segregation on public transportation.
These statistics can offer us deeper insight, but leave questions about what we can do next – both in our communities and in Israel itself. To learn more about that, check out this post from URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs about advancing authentic Judaism in Israel and this blog series on the URJ’s Inside Leadership blog showcasing strategies for Israel education. You can also visit the RAC’s Israel issue page for more information.
Feature image courtesy of Wayne McLean, Wikipedia.