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Students to learn about Jesus? Photo: Visual/Photos
Students to learn about Jesus? Photo: Visual/Photos
 
 

Should Christianity be taught in schools?

Survey examining Israeli Jews' approach to Christianity and Christians reveals astounding gaps between secular, religious respondents on almost all issues

Kobi Nahshoni
Published: 02.24.09, 07:47 / Israel Jewish Scene

The Pope's recent rehabilitation of Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson outraged Jews worldwide, while a recent TV skit mocking Jesus on Israel's Channel 10 sparked anger in the Christian world.

 

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The strained relations between the two faiths prompted the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies to conduct a survey examining the public's stances towards Christianity, the Christian world and Christian presence in Israel.

 

The survey revealed an ambivalent approach towards these issues among Israeli Jews: Most respondents believe that schools should teach students about Christianity, but not about the New Testament and that the State should allow freedom of religious exercise, but prevent Christian bodies from purchasing land in Jerusalem.

 

The survey was conducted by the Smith Institute among 500 respondents that constitute a representative sample of the adult Jewish population in the country.

 

According to 54% of seculars, Christianity was closer to Judaism than Islam, while only 17% of religious respondents agreed to this statement and 48% said that Islam was in fact closer. Meanwhile, 43% of seculars defined the Catholic Church's attitude towards Judaism and Jews as positive, while 65% of religious said that it was negative.

 

Sixty percent of religious and ultra-orthodox respondents said the sight of a person wearing a cross disturbed them, whilst 91% of seculars said they did not mind it.

 

On almost all issues seculars exhibited an open-minded approach towards Christianity, whereas religious respondents were less than tolerant. Sixty-eight percent of seculars said that Christianity should be taught in schools, and 52% believed that the New Testament should be studied as well. Meanwhile, religious and haredim ruled out any reference to Christianity in school curriculums, 73% and 90% respectively.

 

Should Jews visit church?

Should Christians be allowed freedom of religious exercise in Israel? Seventy-one percent of seculars replied positively, while 68% of religious respondents opposed. Forty-eight percent of religious said churches' activity in Israel should be limited, while 48% of seculars said that they should enjoy the same funding Jewish religious institutions receive.

 

Fifty-one percent of seculars defined the approach of Christian Arab citizens to the State as positive, while 62% of the religious sector said it was negative and 51% claimed that Israel should encourage Christian Arabs to immigrate abroad.

 

Both sectors believe that the state should prevent Christian bodies from buying land in Jerusalem (64% of seculars and 95% of religious).

 

Asked whether Jews should be allowed to visit church, 80% of seculars replied positively and 83% of religious respondents answered negatively, with 43% claiming that all or most Christians were missionaries towards Jews; 82% of seculars disagreed with this notion.

 

On the subject of donations, 70% of seculars said it was okay for Jewish organizations to receive contributions from Christian groups, while 79% of religious respondents disapproved.

 

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