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Israel Becoming Less Secular

An Israel Democratic Institute demographic survey finds religious growth, secular decline; the percentage of religious is highest among the youth.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 11/22/2007, 4:59 PM

An Israel Democratic Institute (IDI) demographic survey finds religious growth and secular decline - but most significant is that the proportion of religious in the public is highest among the youth.

The percentage of Jews describing themselves as secular has dropped sharply over the past 30 years, while the religious and traditional proportions have risen.  The annual survey finds that the secular public comprises only 20% of the Israeli population - compared to 41%, more than twice as much, in 1974.

Nearly half the population, 47%, describes itself as traditional, while the hareidi-religious and religious-Zionist together comprise 33% of the public.

The numbers were compiled based on a survey of representative sampling of 1,016 Israelis Jews. 

Tradition Reigns
Over the past seven years, according to IDI statistics, the proportion of secular Jews has dropped sharply from 32% to 20% today.  The "traditionalists" have traditionally had the lead in polls of this nature - except for one year in 1974, when they trailed the seculars, 41% to 38%. 

Other findings show that the Sephardic population is much more traditional and religious than the Ashkenazic sector.  Ashkenazic Jews are those originating from European (Christian) countries, whereas Sephardic Jews lived in the Iberian Peninsula (now Spain and Portugal), African and Middle Eastern (Moslem) countries. Only 7% of the Sephardim describe themselves as secular, compared to 36% of the Ashkenazim.  At the same time, 56% of the Sephardim are religious or hareidi, compared to only 17% of the Ashkenazim.

39% of those under age 40 are religious - more than those in their 40's and 50's (32%), and much more than those aged 60 and over (20%). 

It can be inferred from the numbers that Israel is a traditional society, and that it will become even more so as the years go by. 

Country is Right-Wing; the Religious - Even More So
Politically, the religious are more right-wing, but so are the others.  Among the religious, many more identify with the right than with the left, by a 71-8 margin; among the traditional, it's 49-21, and among the secular, it's 43-27.  In total, 55% of the population view themselves as right-wing, and only 18% are to the left.