Poll: Religion in Israel an Israeli, Not Jewish Issue

Decisions on religion in Israel should be made without taking world Jewish opinion into consideration, respondents say.

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Maayana Miskin,

Rallying in New York (file)
Rallying in New York (file)
Israel news photo: Shana Neumann-Tatzpit Unit

The majority of Israelis think that the question of religion in Israel should be treated as an Israeli issue, and that world Jewish opinion should not affect the government’s decisions, according to a new survey.

The poll conducted by Teleseker for the Israel Democracy Institute, found that 54 percent said the opinions of Jews living outside Israel should not be taken into consideration, or should be have only a slight influence, when it comes to determining Israeli policy regarding Judaism and the State.

The poll found that 76 percent of Israelis believe support for Israel among United States Jews will remain steady, or even increase.

The findings were presented during the establishment of a new Knesset Lobby for Israel-U.S. relations.

The Israel Democracy Institute previously published a survey on attitudes toward the Conservative and Reform movements. Both Jewish movements are popular in the United States but are relatively small in Israel. The government does not recognize weddings or conversions conducted under Reform or Conservative auspices.

The poll found that 3.9 percent of Israelis identify most closely with the Reform movement, and 3.2 percent identify most closely with Conservative. Over 26 percent said they identify most closely with Orthodox Judaism, and 9.7 percent did not answer the question.

Fifty-six percent said they did not identify with any of the groups listed.

The survey found that of those who described themselves as affiliating most closely with Reform, 41 percent described themselves as irreligious, while another 41 percent said they observe some Jewish tradition but are not fully religious. Among those who described themselves as affiliating most closely with the Conservative movement, 67 percent said they observe some Jewish traditions, and 15 percent described themselves as irreligious.

Those who said they feel closest to the Reform movement were most likely to describe themselves as left-wing on both defense and finance. Respondents who described themselves as left-wing or irreligious were significantly more likely to support equal recognition of the Reform and Conservative movements by the Israeli government.

The survey found that feelings of identification with the Reform and Conservative movements were highest among Israelis from the United States and western Europe, and among Jews from northern Africa and Asia. Support for the two movements was disproportionately low among Israelis of eastern European origin and Israelis born to parents born in Israel.

While Jews or Asian or northern African origin were slightly more likely than other Israelis to identify with the Conservative or Reform movements, members of the same ethnic group were least likely to support government recognition of either movement.