80% of Israelis disapprove of religion-state relationship
Religion and State Index published annually in Ynet on eve of Jewish New Year shows that over 60% would completely separate religion and state, 65% prefers a government without haredi parties, and vast majority supports at least some public transportation on Shabbat
Most Jewish Israelis have traditional lifestyles and worldviews, but support freedom of religion and separation of church and state, according the annual Israel Religion and State Index published on Ynet on the eve of the Jewish New Year.
The Hiddush Association's Religion and State Index, a comprehensive annual research project published in cooperation with Ynet for the seventh time, questioned participants on a number of controversial issues, including civil marriages, Shabbat, military service, and more.
Eight hundred people participated, a sample representing the adult Jewish population in Israel. The margin of error was 3.5 percent.
Eighty-six percent of participants agreed that all people should have freedom of religion, while 61 percent would completely sever the relationship between church and state.
However, further questioning revealed a more conservative outlook.
For example, while 64 percent support Reform, Conservative, and civil marriages, 63 percent said they would choose a wedding according to Jewish law for themselves or their children, even if all options were open to them. Of the remainder, 19 percent would prefer a civil marriage, 10 percent Conservative or Reform, with eight percent saying they supported common-law marriage.
According to 64 percent of survey participants, if civil marriage is approved in Israel, it should include same-sex couples. This issue saw a notable increase in support of 14 percent relative to 2013.
Four-fifths of respondents were dissatisfied with the government's treatment of the church and state issue. Among these were most haredi and secular Jews, while religious Jews were almost perfectly split – 51 percent satisfied, 49 percent not.
The question of kosher laws has reemerged as a subject of public debate in the past few months, as the High Court of Justice has been petitioned to strike down the existing law giving the Chief Rabbinate a monopoly on the issue, while some attempt to push legislation to maintain the status quo.
Forty-nine percent of respondents said that any professional body should be allowed to provide a kosher certificate, 27 percent supported the status quo, while 24 percent expressed interest in competition, but only between Orthodox bodies.
Regarding conversions, also publicly debated recently, 36 percent said the government should only recognize conversions according to traditional Jewish laws. Thirty-four percent supported recognizing all conversions, while 30 percent would only accept religious conversions – Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform.
As many Israelis in various cities urge public transportation on the Shabbat, 45 percent of survey participants said it should be implemented on a small scale, and 27 percent said it should be fully implemented. Meanwhile, 18 percent supported preserving the status quo, and 10 percent thought even the little public transportation currently functioning on Shabbat should be ceased.
The proportion of those supporting implementing the move partially or fully is a consistently rising trend, with a total rise of 36 percent in 2010-2015.
Respondents were also asked about their Shabbat habits. The results showed that 30 percent observe Shabbat according to Jewish law, 32 percent are not strict but see it as a special day of rest, and 16 percent observe some of the Shabbat laws, while 22 percent see it as a regular day off work.
On the controversial subject of drafting yeshiva students, 70 percent said military or civil service should be mandatory for all Israelis. Meanwhile, 16 percent supported setting a limited quota for students who would be granted exemption, and 14 percent said all of them should receive a special status saying that "the Torah is his vocation".
On a related topic, 82 percent supported requiring haredi educational institutions to include core subjects in their curriculum.
Meanwhile, based on the survey, 65 percent of the Israeli public prefers a government without the participation of haredi parties.
One question dealt with freedom to practice non-Jewish religions in Israel, and follows controversy last year around Christian prayer in the Cenacle (traditionally believed to be the site of the Last Supper), which is above King David's Tomb in Jerusalem's Old City. A majority of 61 percent said this freedom should be permitted in every case, 28 percent supported permitting prayer, but under restrictions, like today, and 11 percent said Christians should be entirely prevented from praying at the holy site.
Israelis see conflict between haredi and secular Jews as secondary to the political division between left and right, according to the poll, and the majority of haredim did not even see it as particularly severe. That said, the rift is greater in the eyes of respondents than tensions between rich and poor, Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Jews, and immigrants and long-time residents.
The proportion of those ranking the haredi-secular split as one of the two most serious rifts in the country fell by 13 percent compared to last year, while those pointing to a Mizrahi-Ashkenazi conflict went up by 37.5 percent.
The CEO of Hiddush, Attorney Rabbi Uri Regev, said of the survey results that it "reveals an intolerable gap between the public's positions and those of the coalition, which has had a fire sale of freedom of religion and equal sharing of the burden for haredi parties."
According to Regev, coalition agreements with haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism are "shooting the Israeli economy in the foot, and directly sabotaging the future of the country and of Zionism."