TEL AVIV (JTA) – Israeli Jews tend to be tolerant of religious and political differences within their society, but believe that Muslim Arabs, the haredi Orthodox and left-wingers contribute least to the “success” of the country.
So say the results of “Jewish Pluralism in Israel,” a study released Sunday by the Jewish People Policy Institute, an Israeli think tank. The study is the latest in a series of polls examining how the Jewish state’s Jews feel about each other and their non-Jewish neighbours.
“Muslim Arabs who don’t serve in the military, haredim who do not serve in the military, and left-wing people who are critical of Israeli policy and its military” are perceived negatively, said Shmuel Rosner, the study’s lead author. “So what you see is that most Israelis measure their appreciation of different groups by their level of contribution to society.”
Not surprisingly, “traditional” Jewish respondents placed a high value on the religious Zionist contribution to the state, while “liberal religious” respondents said they valued kibbutzniks, who are mostly secular.
But haredim said Reform Jews and Muslim Arabs are the groups with the most negative effect on Israel. Staunchly secular Jews, in turn, viewed yeshiva students and haredim poorly.
The study, which focused on how different groups of Israeli Jews value each other, found some consensus: Ninety per cent of Jews feel comfortable in Israel. More than 80 per cent of respondents agreed that “secular, traditional and religious Jews are all equally good Jews.” Every religious Jewish group, from “totally secular” to haredi, valued Israeli soldiers highly.
“I do not want to dismiss that there are serious disagreements among groups in Israel,” Rosner said. “There are on many issues. The debates are serious and are significant. Then again, I do not see a society that is breaking apart. I see a society in which people are looking for ways to bridge the differences.”
The five per cent of Israelis who call themselves left wing reciprocate the disapproval their peers feel toward them. More than a third said they feel uncomfortable in their country, more than double any other political group. About 90 per cent of right-wing and moderate right respondents, who together account for 51 per cent of Israeli Jews, said they feel comfortable.
Rosner attributed leftist discomfort to 15 straight years of right-wing and centre-right governments in Israel. Left-wingers, he said, “feel they’re losing their country.”
“It’s a chicken-and-egg issue,” he said. “The less they feel comfortable, the less they identify with Israeli society. The less they identify with Israeli society, the harsher their assessment of Israel becomes. The harsher their assessment becomes, the more Israelis are angry at them for being so critical of Israel. So this process of alienation from both sides is in many ways natural.”
The survey included 1038 respondents polled via online panels and by phone from March 16 to 23. Its margin of error is 3.2 per cent.
Recent similar polls have returned some controversial findings. The “Jewish Unity Index,” published last July by Gesher, an organization aiming to bridge the religious-secular divide, found that many secular and haredi Jews rarely interact. In March, the Pew Research Center’s broad study of Israeli attitudes found that nearly half of Israeli Jews wanted to expel Arabs from the country.