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Poll: 20% of Israelis Feel More 'Jewish' Than 'Israeli'

Most Israelis feel more or equally 'Jewish' as they do 'Israeli,' poll reveals. But will they in the future?
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 4/27/2014, 11:16 AM

'Jewish' or 'Israeli' - or both? (file)
'Jewish' or 'Israeli' - or both? (file)
Flash 90

Over 20% of Israelis feel more "Jewish" than "Israeli," a poll revealed Sunday, and the percentage rises among the younger and religious populations. 

BINA, an organization for Jewish identity in Israel, released the poll ahead of Israeli Independence Day (Yom Ha'atzmaut). The organization polled 500 men and women from across the religious spectrum in Israel as a representative sample of public opinion, and aims to check the level of religious and national identity in Israel - both now, and for the future. 

More religious Israeli identify primarily as "Jewish," according to the poll. 49.5% of the Orthodox community feels more "Jewish" than "Israeli," compared with 9.7% among the secular public.

Overall, 20.1% of Jewish Israelis feel more "Jewish" than "Israeli," compared to 13.6% who identify primarily as "Israeli" instead of "Jewish." The overwhelming majority of Israelis identify as both equally, with 60.8% of respondents saying they feel just as "Jewish" as they do "Israeli."

2% of respondents said they feel neither "Jewish" nor "Israeli" and 3.5% answered that they were unsure of how they identified. 

Demographic Differences

Men are more polarized over their identities than women, the poll reveals. 70.7% of women surveyed feel equally "Jewish" and "Israeli," compared to just 50% of men.

Men, meanwhile, are more prone to identify as one or the other. 25.2% of men identify as "Jewish" rather than "Israeli," compared to just 15.4% of women. Conversely, 19.7% of men identify as more "Israeli" than "Jewish," compared to 8% of women.

Younger Israelis are also more likely to identify with being "Jewish" more than being "Israeli," the poll reveals. 28.6% of respondents ages 18-34 identified more "Jewish" than "Israeli," compared to 18.8% of respondents over 55 and just 14% of respondents aged 35-54.

Time will Tell

Despite the slight upper hand for Jewish identity in the poll, most respondents predicted that their children and grandchildren would identify primarily as "Israeli" and that Jewish identity would wane over time.

18.1% felt that their descendants would feel more "Israeli" than "Jewish," compared to 17.4% who felt that future generations would have a stronger Jewish identity. 

Respondents also predicted that, in 2034, only 49% of Jewish Israelis would identify as "Jewish" and "Israeli" equally, compared to 60.8% in 2014. 

Eran Baruch, CEO of Bina, stated that the poll is an important reminder of the complications of a Jewish state.

"The choice between 'Jewish' or 'Israeli' [identities] reveals the tension in which [Israeli] society is immersed - between tradition and innovation, between religious identity and national identity," Baruch stated. "Israeli society is an active melting pot of identities, each of which really fights to express itself and find its place [in society]."

"Since we are a country with great religious significance, more than a fifth of the public feels more 'Jewish' than 'Israeli,'" he continued. "This figure has implications for all aspects of Israeli life - military conscription, emigration, and a sense of belonging."