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Nearly half of Israeli Jews want to expel Arabs from the country: survey

Arab Israelis protest in Jerusalem FILE PHOTO
Arab Israelis protest in Jerusalem FILE PHOTO

TEL AVIV — Nearly half of Jewish-Israelis want to expel Arabs from the country.

That’s one of several findings from a new survey of Israeli attitudes on religion, politics and Jewish identity conducted by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center.

Coming just three years after Pew’s much-discussed study of American Jews, the Israel study depicts a country divided by religion and ethnicity, where Jews of opposing religious outlooks rarely associate and marriages that cross the Jewish-Arab divide almost never happen.

Israel is 81 per cent Jewish and 19 per cent non-Jewish, according to the survey. Among the Jews, half are secular. The other half is divided between religious Zionists (13 per cent), haredi Orthodox Jews (9 per cent) and traditional Jews (29 per cent).

The study, released on Tuesday morning, is based on 5,600 interviews with Israelis conducted between October 2014 and May 2015 and has a margin of error of 2.9 per cent on questions asked of Jews, and 5.6 per cent for those asked of Muslims. Many of the findings confirm commonly held views about Israel, but here are six that may surprise you.

1. Almost half of Israeli Jews want Israel to be Arab-free

Israeli politicians often tout Israel’s Arab minority as proof of the country’s diversity and democracy. But nearly half of Israel’s Jews want to see that minority forcibly removed.

Forty-eight per cent of Israeli Jews agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel.” Slightly fewer (46 per cent) disagreed or strongly disagreed.

Support for removal draws largely from right-wing Israelis. Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of self-identified right-wing Jews agreed that Arabs should leave Israel, as did 71 per cent of religious Zionists and 59 per cent of the haredi Orthodox. Among left-wing Jews, 10 per cent said yes to forcible transfer.

2. Two-thirds of Israeli Jews keep kosher

Israelis vary widely in their religious observance: Most religious Israelis pray daily, while their secular counterparts can go years without setting foot in a synagogue. One quarter of Israeli Jews say they observe no religious traditions.

But some Jewish customs have gained something akin to a consensus following in Israel. Nearly all Israeli Jews attend a Passover seder. Almost two-thirds of Israeli Jews keep a kosher home, including one-third of secular Israelis. Four-fifths of Israelis, including two-thirds of secular Jews, refrain from eating pork. Nearly half of Israel’s Russian-speaking Jews (47 per cent) do eat pork.

3. 19 per cent of Israeli haredim say you can believe in Jesus and still be Jewish

On the whole, Israeli Jews maintain a broad definition of who is a Jew. Solid majorities of Israeli Jews believe someone can deny God’s existence, work on Shabbat, harshly criticize Israel and still be Jewish. But an overwhelming majority draws the line at believing in Jesus as the messiah.

Only 18 per cent of Israeli Jews — and 19 per cent of haredi Israelis — say a Jew can believe in Jesus and remain Jewish.

4. Israel is getting more religious — but less Jewish

Israel’s short history has been punctuated by successive waves of Jewish immigration from around the world, but even with those millions of newcomers, the country is proportionally less Jewish than when it was founded.

In 1949, Israel was 86 per cent Jewish and 13 per cent Arab. Now, it’s 81 per cent Jewish and 19 per cent Arab.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Jews are becoming proportionally more observant. Between 2002 and 2013, the percentage of Israeli Jews older than 20 who are Orthodox grew from 16 per cent to 19 percent, according to the Israeli Social Survey.

Haredi Israelis have far more children than secular Jews – 91 per cent have more than three children, while half of secular Jews have two or less. More than a quarter of haredi families (28 per cent) have at least 7 children.

5. When it comes to religion, Arab Israelis look more like the Orthodox than secular Jews

Political analysts often group Israeli Arabs in with secular left-wing Israelis due to their similar political leanings. But in terms of attitudes toward religion, Israeli Arabs look more like Israel’s Orthodox Jews.

A solid majority of Israeli Muslims and Christians say religion is “very important” to them, compared to just two per cent of secular Jews. Forty-five per cent of Israeli Muslims say being Muslim is mostly about religion — similar to the 52 per cent of religious Zionists who see Judaism as mostly about religion.

Similar percentages of Muslims and religious Zionists pray daily. And similar percentages of Muslims and haredim believe in God with absolute certainty. About half of Muslims attend mosque weekly — fewer than the solid majorities of Orthodox Israelis who go to synagogue every week, but far above the low rates of non-Orthodox attendance.