Religious conflict among Jews

Poll: 71% of Israelis say secular-ultra-Orthodox tensions most acute

According to Hiddush “Religion and State Index,” 41 percent identify political left-right tensions as most acute problem in Israeli society • Hiddush president: “Unacceptable gap” between public’s desire for freedom of religion and government’s position.

Israel Hayom Staff, September 27, 2012

Seventy-eight percent of respondents support reducing government funding for yeshivas to encourage young Haredi males to enter the workforce, the Hiddush study found.

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Photo credit: Reuters

The most serious conflict within Israeli society is the one between the secular and ultra-Orthodox population, according to a recent public opinion study conducted by Hiddush, an organization advocating freedom of religion in Israel.

Hiddush’s annual “Religion and State Index” was conducted between July 31 and August 6 and is based on a telephone polling of 800 Jewish adults in Israel.

The survey found that 71 percent of respondents viewed tensions between the secular and ultra-Orthdox sectors as the most or second most “acute” problem in Israeli society, compared with 41% who identified the tensions between the political left and right, 33% who named the rich-poor divide and 16% who identified tensions between the Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities as the most or second most acute problem.

Asked “To what extent are you satisfied with the actions of the government in the area of religion and state?” 76% expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s policies on this issue.

Among other key findings, 64% of respondents, including 56% of Jews identifying themselves as religious, support making the segregation of women in the public sphere a criminal offence.

On reducing government funding for yeshivas to encourage young Haredi males to enter the workforce, 78% of respondents expressed support for the move.

The majority of respondents, 65%, “resent the decisive influence that Haredi parties have on matters of religion and state,” according to the survey.

Additionally, a clear majority of respondents, 83%, believe that yeshiva students should be forced to serve either in the military or civilian service.

Seventy-two percent said they reject the claim of Haredi political parties that yeshiva study, not military service, ensures Israel’s safety, and 61% said they were more likely to vote for a party in the next election if it actively supported freedom of religion.

Hiddush Chairman Stanley P. Gold commented on the survey’s results, saying that, “The study proves that the public wants Judaism, but a Judaism that is free of coercion. It demonstrates how unsubstantiated and pretentious is the claim of the ultra-Orthodox parties that they represent Judaism and Jewish interests. In actuality, these parties are undermining Judaism by linking it with political coercion, corruption, extremism, and thereby distancing the general public from Judaism and the Jewish people from Israel.”

He added, “There is no greater enemy to Judaism and the Jewish people than the ultra-Orthodox parties, and the government’s continued surrender to their demands.”

Rabbi Uri Regev, the president of Hiddush, also remarked on the findings, saying that there exist gaps between what the public wants in terms of freedom of religion and the position of the government.

“Once again, the index reveals the unacceptable gap between the positions of the public which desires freedom of religion and equality in shouldering civic burdens, and the government coalition’s positions, which avoid any confrontation with the ultra-Orthodox parties,” Regev said. “The public wants equal military service for all, the implementation of core curricular studies, civil marriage, public transportation on Shabbat, a decrease in subsidies for yeshiva students, and action against public discrimination of women. Instead, the public suffers from the governments repeated surrender to the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism.”

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