Findings of a new poll conducted for the Ne’emanei Torah Va’avodah religious-Zionist lobbying group have shown that almost 50 percent of secular Jews in Israel consider themselves at least somewhat close to Jewish traditions.
The survey also demonstrated weak support for recent religious legislation among secular and religiously traditional Jews, while most religious-Zionist Jews said they do not feel such laws have a positive impact on feelings towards Judaism.
The poll, conducted by the Rafi Smith Institute, reviewed the attitudes of secular, traditional and religious-Zionist Jews in the country on key spheres of religious observance and found consistently high levels of support for key Jewish practices.
The poll was conducted on July 20 this year on a sample of 500 adult Israelis of the age of 18, 40% of whom were secular, 30% were religiously traditional and 30% were from the religious-Zionist sector.
Asked whether or not they feel close to Jewish tradition, 49% of secular Israelis said they felt either “quite close” or “very close,” along with 91% of religiously traditional Israelis and 99% of religious-Zionist Israelis.
Fasting on Yom Kippur is another well observed practice, with 54% of secular Israelis saying they fast on this day either every year or on occasion, while 95% of religiously traditional Israelis fast and 100% of religious- Zionist Jews.
Religious circumcision (brit mila), one of the most important of the religious commandments in the Torah, remains very widely observed, with 94% of secular Jewish Israelis saying they have or would give their son a brit mila, together with 97% of the religiously traditional and 100% of religious- Zionists.
Bar and bat mitzva ceremonies are also widely practiced, with 78% of secular Jews saying that either they themselves celebrated this occasion or would do for their children, along with 91% of traditional Jews and 100% of religious-Zionists.
In terms of a pluralist approach to religious issues in Israel, opinion was more divided.
Asked if they support civil marriage in Israel, 25 percent of religious-Zionists said they are in favor, with 52% opposed, and another 23% said they have no opinion on the matter.
But 90% of secular Jews said they are in favor, along with 50% of traditional Jews, while 31% of the traditional said they are opposed.
There was however greater consensus of opinion when asked if the lack of civil marriage in Israel was responsible for greater numbers of Israelis marrying in civil ceremonies abroad. Some 91% of secular Jews agreed with this statement, along with 73% of traditional Jews and 56% of religious- Zionist Jews.
And large numbers of secular and traditional Jews took a dim view of recent legislation on religious issues. Asked if they agree with current extent of legislation on such matters, 85% of secular respondents said they are opposed, with just 5% in support, while 41% of the traditional said they are opposed with only 29% in favor.
Of Religious-Zionist respondents, 59% said they support recent religious legislation, with 14% opposed.
But respondents demonstrated greater agreement on the effect of such legislation on the attitude of the public to religion.
Some 74% of secular Jews said recent legislation on religious matters distanced them from Judaism, along with 42% of religiously traditional Jews.
Only 11% of religious-Zionists said that such laws distanced them from Judaism, although only 26% of them said it made people closer to religion, along with just 9% of the traditional and 2% of secular Jews.
Shmuel Shattach, director of the Ne’emanei Torah Va’avodah movement, said that the poll demonstrated that public objection to the current situation of religion and state issues does not translate into an objection to religion.
“On the contrary, many of those who care about the religion are opposed to the current religious legislation, precisely because of this concern” said Shattach. “The survey also proves, directly and indirectly, that the arrangements between state and religion, anchored in the status quo, indeed drive away Israelis from Judaism.
“Therefore, it is time for the Israeli politicians, including the religious ones among them, to finally begin reflecting the sentiments of many within the Israeli society, including those who the religion and tradition are close to their hearts, through actions directed towards the rearrangement of the relations between religion and state.