About a week after Ynet reported about a study by the Israel Democracy Institute claiming that the secular sector in Israel has been declining over time, Yair Lapid responds to the findings in an article to be published this Saturday in the “Olam Katan” (small world) weekly.
“The figures regarding the change in the ratio of seculars in the country are simply false,” Lapid says. “The study did not ask people how they define themselves, which is the main question in my view, but rather, it asked about their way of life. If they would ask me, for example, whether I go to synagogue on occasion, I would say I do. Yet nobody would ask if I go to a Reform or Orthodox synagogue, or whether I go because I want my kids to see Jewish tradition and feel the atmosphere. So saying that I’m a religious Jew based on this is unthinkable!”
“The real figure we should be addressing is the one by the Central Bureau of Statistics, and this figure has not changed for many years – 45 percent of Israel’s population defines itself as secular, 35 percent as traditional, eight percent as ultra-Orthodox, and nine percent as religious. The only place where we sometimes see a shift in the numbers is between the religious and ultra-Orthodox. The Israel Democracy Institute is not suspected of attempting to deliberately manipulate data, certainly not of this kind, but in my view they asked the wrong questions research-wise. I don’t think it is right to analyze modes of conduct and define belonging based on that. Therefore, I think the religious public’s delight is premature. “
Lapid says that a change that did take place in the State of Israel in recent decades is that many more seculars feel they lost Judaism to the religious and have decided they wish to take interest in Judaism and deal with it in their own way.
“In my view this is a positive thing,” Lapid says, and adds: “Judaism is a great and noble thing, and to say ‘we’ll leave it to the Orthodox and religious without taking any interest’ is irresponsible. For years Judaism has been a sort of product put on the religious shelf, and on holidays we would take it off the shelf and let seculars play with it for a bit. Now, Judaism is going back to being something that more closely touches everyone.”
‘Truly positive trend’Lapid says his family visited religious friends on Friday evening two weeks ago “so that the kids see a Shabbat as it should be,” but emphasizes that even though he did something that has to do with tradition, this doesn’t turn him into something he is not, as he put it.
Lapid adds: “My children receive education that greatly emphasizes the fact they are part of a human group that has tradition, collective memory, and a state. I am a great believer in the need for Israel to be a Jewish state. I certainly believe my children will pass that on to their children.”
“By the way, this openness goes both ways,” Lapid adds. “When I see today the great movement of ultra-Orthodox women to job placements at high-tech companies and secular companies, for me this means recognition on the part of Orthodox society that seculars are not about to disappear. I think that on both sides, the two parts of the nation are finally starting to know each other, and this, more than anything, is a truly positive trend.”