The "thou shall mortify yourself" mitzvah is still popular: Two-thirds of the public plan to refrain from eating and drinking and obey the fasting mitzvah on Yom Kippur,
according to a survey conducted by Ynet's Judaism channel and the Gesher educational organization.
The secular public perceives the Day of Atonement mostly as a time of rest which does not particularly move them, while the other sectors view it as a holy day with the purpose of self-examination.
Despite the difference, Yom Kippur is considered the No. 1 holiday uniting the people of Israel, preceding Independence Day.
The Ynet-Gesher survey was conducted by Panels Ltd. and included 505 respondents, who constitute a national representative sample of the adult Jewish population in Israel,
with the maximal sampling error being 4.4%.
In the first part of the poll, respondents were asked whether they plan to fast on Yom Kippur and why. Sixty-three percent said they would fast, 38% of them because of Jewish tradition, 23% because they observe mitzvoth and 2% "because everyone fasts."
Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they have no plans to fast during the day.
An analysis of the religious affiliations reveals a huge gap between haredi, religious and traditional people, a vast majority of whom plan to fast (93%-100%), and secular people who won't refrain from eating (56%).
Another analysis shows that the older the respondent, the lower the number of people fasting (89% of people aged 18 to 20, and 52% of people over the age of 51 plan to fast).
A geographical analysis revealed that Haifa is the only place in Israel with a majority of Jews planning not to fast (55%).
Yom Kippur is known to be the most holy day of the year, but there are those who would define it differently. Fifty-three percent said that they indeed view it as a holy day, but 38 mainly see it as a "day of rest at home." Seven percent admitted that it was the only day of the year when they connect to Jewish tradition, while 2% admitted responded that they just escape abroad on that day.
Another analysis according to religious affiliations showed a different in the different sectors' attitude towards Yom Kippur. Seculars perceive its as a day of rest at home (56$), while haredi, religious and traditional people define it as a holy day (86%-100%).
Most Haifa residents prefer the secular approach, treating the day as a time of rest (58%).
And what does Yom Kippur do to us? Fifty-nine percent use it for self-examination, but for 36% it carries no special meaning. Three percent said it causes them to become newly religious, while 2% fear God during this day.
An analysis of the results reveals that seculars are unmoved by Yom Kippur (52%), traditional religious people use if for self-examination (85% and 88%, respectively), while the ultra-Orthodox are divided between self-examination and becoming newly religious (53% and 47%).
In the last part of the survey, respondents were asked which holiday gives them the strongest feeling of unity of the Israeli people. Twenty-nine percent chose Yom Kippur, while 28% selected Independence Day.
Fourteen percent believe Passover is the holiday of unity, 8% defined Rosh Hashana
that way, 1% said Sukkot,
and one respondent voted for Hanukkah
(less than 1%). Fifteen percent said unity is felt on all holidays equally, while 5% believes unity is not felt on any holiday.
An analysis according to religious affiliations shows that seculars mentioned Independence Day as the day when the people of Israel's unity is evident (33%), while traditional, religious and haredi respondents chose Yom Kippur (43%-65%).
Shoshi Becker, educational director at Gesher Educational Affiliates, said in response to the findings that "a significant percentage of the people fasts on Yom Kippur and views it as a day of self-examination, holiness and a day uniting the people more than any other holiday.
"The self-examination perception does not only belong to the religious, and there are many seculars who view Yom Kippur as an opportunity for a personal self-examination. The sanctity of Yom Kippur is also a perception common in all sectors, also in those which do not define themselves as religious or traditional.
"The trend of drawing closer to tradition among young people is evident in the survey and expressed in the desire to fast due to the connection to the Jewish tradition," she concluded.