UPDATE: Violent clashes occurring in late afternoon between Jewish community members and Palestinians at Kedumim. Impending terrorist rocket alert (at 8:01 pm) for Eshkol and Lachish regions.
There has been much reportage in the last few weeks about a poll that was released by the Israel Democracy Institute’s Guttman Center for Surveys and the Avi Chai Foundation. The poll, which apparently came as a shock to the Israeli “left”, fully documents the “return” to Judaism of the Israeli Jewish public.
Nowhere has the shock been registered more than in the Israeli media where newscasters on every channel have been wringing their hands over the “impending Israeli theocracy” and despondently pronouncing that Israel has returned “to the Middle Ages.”
Here are some of the findings:
85% believe in the traditional observance of the Jewish holidays, and 80% of Israeli Jews believe that God exists.
75% of Israeli Jewish citizens keep kosher at home, and 70% believe that Jews are “God’s chosen people”.
70% do not eat “leaven” during Passover, but 68% want restaurants, cafes, and movie theaters open on Shabbat.
65% believe that the Torah “was given by God”, and 61% think that public life should be conducted according to Jewish values.
56% believe in life after death, and 55% believe in the coming of the Messiah.
50% believe that civil marriage should be introduced in Israel, and 46% call themselves “secular”.
32% identify themselves as “traditional Jews” while 22% of the respondents called themselves “orthodox or ultra-orthodox”.
Your humble servant suspects that you, dear reader, probably do not find anything unexpected in the poll numbers. However, to understand the significance of these numbers, you must first realize that the early Zionists who founded the state of Israel did not incorporate Judaism into their daily lives.
These Zionists typically celebrated the Jewish holidays but did not follow the prescriptions against certain actions on those holidays (for example, they ate leaven on Passover), and they did not keep kosher and did not believe in God. They looked at Judaism as having failed the Jewish people during the Holocaust, and they wanted to build a Jewish state that was not wholly based on Judaism.
And so the situation has remained until today–or at least until recently. Some of the foremost political parties (such as Labor and Kadima) have had little basis in Judaism–in the same way that the entire political “left” in Israel has been divorced from religion. For these parties and people to see a statistic that 80% of Israeli Jews believe that God exists, is literally earth-shattering.
The knee-jerk reaction on the Israeli left to this poll has been to disingenuously frame the issue as a ‘democracy vs religion’ issue. But if you look at the poll numbers closely there is no indication that Israeli society wants to somehow abandon democracy. And to suggest that being religious makes one averse to democracy is absurd in the extreme.
In a political sense, the poll signals the continuing demise of the ‘secular’ parties on the “left” whose places will be eventually taken by the ‘religious’ parties on the right–many of the parties that you never read about such as Shas, Agudat Yisrael, Degel HaTorah, and Habayit HaYehudi).
But in a much more profound sense, it means that the left’s attempt to degrade Judaism into little more than a facet of Israeli culture has failed. It means that the ‘left’ has lost the battle for Israel’s soul.
THIS DATE IN ISRAELI HISTORY:
On February 6, 2002, Miri Ohana (aged 45) and her 11 year old daughter Yael were murdered when a Palestinian terrorist wearing an IDF uniform infiltrated their home in Moshav Hamra–in the Jordan valley between Jericho and Beit She’an. IDF reserve soldier, St.-Sgt. Maj.(res.) Moshe Majos Meconen, 33, of Beit She’an, was also murdered in the attack.
The terrorist was eventually killed by IDF forces. Both the PLO and Hamas gruesomely “claimed responsibility.”