crowd at the Kotel
crowd at the Kotelcourtesy Western Wall Heritage Foundation

A new study shows that 80% of Israeli Jews believe in G-d. The study by the Gutman Center of the Israel Democracy Institute, conducted on behalf of the Avi-Chai fund, polled thousands of Israelis in the past several years, and discovered that the number of Israeli Jews who believe in G-d and practice a religious lifestyle is on the upswing.

The study began in 2009, and was released this week after the death of Professor Asher Arian, who headed the study. The current study is part of a long range series on the questions of belief and faith among Israelis. Prior studies were conducted in 1991 and 1999.

Analysts speaking on Army Radio Thursday said that, while the previous studies showed a continuous decline in the level of belief among Jews in Israel during the 1990s, the latest study shows a significant increase in belief since 2000. The poll showed that 77% of Israeli Jews believe in a “divine power” that guides the world, and that 72% believe that prayer has the power to improve their lives. 67% believe that Jews are the chosen people, and 65% believe that the Torah and its commandments are of Divine origin. In addition, 34% believe that Jews who do not observe the Torah are endangering their fellow Jews and Israelis.

The poll also showed a marked change in the number of Israeli Jews who consider themselves “religious” or “observant.” In the latest study, 15% consider themselves “religious” (“Dati”), compared to 11% in 1999, while 7% said they were Hareidi, compared to 5% in the previous study. 32% said they were “traditional” (“Mesorati”), compared to 32% in 1999. 43% of Israelis in the current study consider themselves “secular” (“chiloni”), compared to 46% in 1999, while 3% today said they were “anti-religious,” compared to 6% a decade ago.

A new question this round revolved around the authority of the Torah versus that of the state. 85% of Hareidim said that the Torah's laws took precedence, as did 49% of the “religious,” when there was a conflict with state laws or democratic principles. 84% of the anti-religious and 65% of the “secular” said that the state's laws took precedence, whole about half of the “traditional” group said it depended on the situation. In all, 44% of those polled said they would side with the state's laws in the case of a conflict, while 20% sided with Jewish law, and 36% said that circumstances would dictate their choice.