Secular thinkers received the Guttman Center’s poll showing growing religious faith among Israel’s Jews with great dismay. One can understand them. The survey’s findings invalidated all prejudice around here regarding the balance of power between heretics and believers.
Suddenly, it turned out that religious Israelis are not some kind of black UFOs from Bnei Brak or bearded aliens from the remote Jerusalem, but rather, your Russian neighbor or the woman with the cleavage from downstairs.
Three of every four Jewish citizens keep kosher at home. At least four of every five citizens believe in God’s existence in line with the Jewish formula. Only a handful of heretics continue to ignore the Seder in Passover and stick to routine on Yom Kippur.
A senior TV personality mourned last week what he termed the “return to the Middle Ages.” Other senior figures were also overcome by deep depression. The new poll disheartened them much more than the impasse in the diplomatic process or the last election results. After all, this was not just a poll reflecting a fleeting political mood, but rather, a thorough ultrasound of the Israeli soul.
The results have far-reaching implications for the basic assumptions of our communal life here. The Jewish State is gaining strength. Its first leaders threw their prayer shawls and tefillin overboard, and now we are bringing them back from deep water.
Freedom of choice
On the other hand, one can find small secular comfort in the findings. Most respondents espoused freedom of choice (which is a very important religious principle, by the way.) They wouldn’t want the Knesset to translate the sensational survey into religious legislation or the establishment of national modesty squads.
Hence, for the time being one can go on serving seafood at Tel Aviv’s restaurants or head to a mixed-gender beach on Shabbat.
The only thing that will change in the wake of the poll is the sense of ownership possessed by the anti-religious camp. Those who aim to continue the legacy of Tommy Lapid will have to cease the bad habit of speaking about the country in the first person.
The Israel of 2012 is no longer their private estate. Nobody will again be doing a favor to the religious camp when appointing a religious Shin Bet chief or earmarking a slight portion of our culture budget to a yarmulke-wearing filmmaker.
The impressive demographic growth of the believers will also have to be taken into account in shaping Israel's public sphere. For example, by minimizing pornography in TV commercials. After all, this camp is no longer a sector; it’s the majority around here.