Sep 22nd, 2020
We are proud to present you with Hiddush’s twelfth annual Israel Religion & State Index. This Index is published during a turbulent time in Israel’s history, in which the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and its severe impact upon the economy and society are interlaced with the strife-laden and unstable political system.
We are proud to present you with Hiddush’s twelfth annual Israel Religion & State Index. The pride and satisfaction are twofold. Firstly, in that we are once again producing a unique survey unparalleled in its scope, continuity, and depth of exploration in all major Israeli religion-state issues. Secondly, in that the Index once again confirms our assertion that the overwhelming majority of the public supports the advancement of religious freedom and equality, in the spirit of the Israeli Declaration of Independence’s promise and of the most basic democratic principles.
This Index is published during a turbulent time in Israel’s history, in which the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and its severe impact upon the economy and society are interlaced with the strife-laden and unstable political system. Still, even at such a complex time, issues of religion & state remain prime on the public and political agenda. Many of these are erupting precisely on account of the pandemic and the political reality.
Such is the societal tension caused by the conduct of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox sector in facing the pandemic, exacerbated by it being able to dictate to the whole country rules and exceptions by exerting political pressure and threats; such is the case with the nearing deadline set by the Supreme Court regarding the revocation of the unconstitutional Draft Law, resulting with great pressure from the ultra-Orthodox to adopt a new law to ensure that no yeshiva student shall be obligated to perform military or civilian service. Such legislation would undoubtedly be challenged again in court, including by Hiddush, for its unconstitutionality is self-evident; such is the case with the battle over the national budget and its many clauses dealing with funding for yeshivas and other expenditures demanded by the religious parties; Such is the case with the attempt to amend the Law of Return in order to restrict Aliyah of descendants of Jews who are not halakhically Jewish; Such is the case with the continuing Shabbat wars; etc., etc.
The Index provides valuable insights regarding pluralism and the Israel-Diaspora relationship. Not only does it reaffirm that the clear majority of Israel’s adult Jewish population supports granting equal status for all Jewish denominations, but it also demonstrates that areas under the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly are resented by most Israeli Jews, and that there is majority support for active engagement of Diaspora Jewry in advocating for religious freedom and equality in Israel.
A consistent majority welcomes Diaspora Jewish leadership’s active engagement on such issues as allowing freedom of choice in marriage by instituting civil marriage & divorce and ending the Chief Rabbinate’s control over kashrut.
A consistent majority welcomes Diaspora Jewish leadership’s active engagement on such issues as allowing freedom of choice in marriage by instituting civil marriage & divorce and ending the Chief Rabbinate’s control over kashrut. This consistent finding is particularly important at a time when Israeli political leaders, whether from the Likud or the ultra-Orthodox parties, repeatedly assault the Diaspora’s Jewish pluralism, reject its legitimacy, and fight against pluralism, such as in regards to the Western Wall plaza, conversion, and marriage. Often Diaspora Jewish leadership avoids playing an active role in advocating, together with Israeli partners, for pluralism and religious freedom in Israel. Such leaders would benefit from studying the Index and learning that while Israelis may not welcome Diaspora involvement in matters of security and the territories, they are eager to have Diaspora partners in enhancing Israel’s Jewish and democratic character.
The report is rich with insights. In part, it follows the conclusions of Indices that preceded it, but it also brings to light new aspects of religion-state relations. It provides a compass for better understanding the connection between the issues of religion and state on the one hand, and the voting choices Israelis make. Alongside security, territorial and economic considerations, which are the overriding considerations for most voters in deciding who to vote for, the Index indicates that the battle over religion and the state also weighs heavily. It may decide the outcome when voters decide between parties whose security and economic agendas are similar to their views.
The Index presents a roadmap for understanding which issues potential voters attach the most importance to, identifies the target audiences of parties in terms of their religious identities and positions on these controversial issues, and explains the increase in votes for Yisrael Beiteinu when it shifted its focus to issues of religious freedom and equality of civic burden. It underscores the challenge facing both Blue & White and Yesh Atid in keeping their votes as they develop their positions on issues of religion and state in the current Knesset and when they come to prepare for upcoming elections, and more.
this report underscores the gap between the policies, which the governing parties pursue on matters of religion and state under pressure from the ultra-Orthodox parties, and the wills of their own constituents and that of Israel’s entire adult Jewish public.
In particular, this report underscores the gap between the policies, which the governing parties pursue on matters of religion and state under pressure from the ultra-Orthodox parties, and the wills of their own constituents and that of Israel’s entire adult Jewish public. This gap brings most of the components of the government coalition to the point of posing a growing threat to the rule of law and to the authority of the High Court and its independence.
They claim they do it in the name of democracy and the “will of the People”. These politicians are undermining the legitimacy of the Court, accusing it of being detached from the People "that seeks tradition and religion", boasting that they and only they faithfully represent the will of the public. The Index demonstrates how cynical and artificial these claims are and illustrates the truth: that the public's trust in the Supreme Court is far greater than its trust in the Government, the Knesset and the Chief Rabbinate. This is despite the and blatant attacks against the Court, which carries the high price of undermining the foundations of Israeli democracy altogether and leads to increasing public distrust in all government institutions.
The Index presents the reader with good news; there is broad national consensus on religion and state issues. However, this consensus is radically different from the practice of generations of Israeli governments on the right, left and center. This broad national consensus, of about two-thirds of the adult Jewish public, and even more on some controversial issues, is characterized by the desire to see the full realization of the Declaration of Independence’s assurances of “freedom of religion and conscience” and of “equality for all without religious distinction”. The vast majority of the Jewish public supports Israel's identity as a Jewish and democratic state, and a large majority rejects attempts to transform it into a “Torah State” and enforce religious laws upon the general public.
This year’s report is characterized by a slightly different design from its predecessors, as the visual presentation of the findings has been increased, and accompanying text has been reduced, highlighting the insights that emerge from the data. We are attaching an abridged version to the full report, whose main purpose is to present the issues of religion and state through the data and its visual representation, without the accompanying analysis.
We would love to hear from you and answer questions that arise for readers of the data and analysis herein. We are, of course, at your service in any matter related to the promotion of freedom of religion and equality, and we encourage you to express your support for a Jewish and democratic Israel, grounded in the assurances of its Declaration of Independence. You can do so easily by adding your name to the “Vision Statement for Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State”, which has already gained the support of leaders, clergy, activists and organizations, in Israel and throughout the Diaspora, of all streams of Judaism and political inclinations. You can sign the Vision Statement here.