Israeli Unity? Only in Times of Crisis

Poll shows secular and religious Israeli Jews only get along during wars, but there are signs of hope for the future

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The results of a new survey published by Israel’s Ynet news portal this week suggest that Israelis are united only in times of crisis, such as wars or other disasters, and that the norm for the Jewish state is division and internal conflict. This is especially true when considering the secular-religious split.

The survey was conducted to mark Tisha B’Av, the solemn fast day held this week in commemoration of the destruction of Jerusalem’s Temple, considered a divine punishment for division within Israel.

While the results painted a fairly bleak picture, they also provided reason for optimism.

Participants in the survey were asked how much attention they pay to the various divisions between Israel’s Jews. A 45–46 percent plurality said that religious and economic divisions were of great concern to them, while 44 percent said that the ethnic divide between Ashkenazi (western) and Mizrahi (eastern) Jews was of little importance.

Deeper analysis revealed that the religious divide between “secular” and ultra-Orthodox Israelis was of much greater importance to secular and traditional Jews than it was to the ultra-Orthodox community.

A full 80 percent from all societal groups recognized that Israel as a people are only united in times of crisis, and a 41.5 percent plurality expect the situation to get worse.

One of the biggest contributing factors to this is a lack of willingness to integrate between the groups. While daily contact is frequent in such a small country, the survey found that, for instance, both secular and ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews are largely unwilling to marry someone from the “other” side. When it came to doing business together or living in close proximity, both sides were a little more tolerant.

On a positive note, a 43 percent plurality of Bible-believing religious Israelis (situated somewhere between “secular” and ultra-Orthodox) expect the situation to improve. Furthermore, most of the respondents from all sectors agreed that despite the differences, the Jews of Israel are in this together, and that their shared heritage does provide common ground for unity, even if only temporarily.

Asked how to solve this problem, 40 percent wanted better education on the topic, while 23 percent called for increased dialogue.

Ilan Gal-Dor, director of the “Gesher” research institute that conducted the survey concluded optimistically: “The results indicate a willingness for dialogue amongst the different sectors. However, there is much work before us. We [Israelis] attach great importance to dialogue and understanding between ourselves as a nation, in service to a better common future – especially [considering the lessons] of Tisha B’Av.”


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