A special survey held by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry looking at public stances regarding immigration, assimilation and conversion, revealed Thursday that a majority of the Israeli public is concerned that increased non-Jewish immigration into Israel may cause assimilation of the Jewish culture.
Despite that view, said the ministry's poll, the majority of the Israeli public is highly supportive of immigration and is willing to support the conversion process in order to keep the Jewish nature of Israel intact.
Held in association with the Kelim Shluvim Institute, the survey polled 700 participants, both secular and religious, on questions of immigration, absorption, conversion and assimilation.
Among the secular participants, 88% said they believed most immigrants come to Israel for non-Jewish motives, 60% predicted immigrants would increase assimilation and 70% rooted for conversions. An additional 52% said they would have no problem with non-Jews marrying into their family.
As for the halachic need of observing a religious way of life, 74% of the poll's secular participants said all immigrants should be converted, even if they are not keen on the idea; but 26% said conversion should be denied when applied only for the purpose of marriage. Moreover, 74% said they believed only the Orthodox conversion should be considered as valid, compared to 50% who said Reform conversion should be recognized as well.
Among the religious participants of the survey, 87% said they feared mass assimilation of the Jewish people in Israel. Fifty-five percent of the respondents said they thought conversion should be denied when applied for any other reason than that of observing mitzvahs; but 45% said conversions for the purpose of marriage were acceptable. Over 90% also said conversion should be a matter of free choice and should not be forced on anyone.
"Converting non-Jewish immigrants in a national, strategic mission for Israel is one which is crucial for the State's future," Minister of Immigrant Absorption Jacob Edery told Ynet.
"The study disproves the notion that the Israeli public loves immigration but doesn't like immigrants. The Israeli public is ready and willing to make its fellow immigrants feel and be a part of Israeli society.
"The State and its religious establishments must create more solutions which could facilitate immigrants' conversion," he added. "This challenge should be our top priority. These people have chosen to become a part of the Jewish people. It is up to us to help them do that."