80% of Israeli Jews believe in God; 63% don’t mix meat and milk, but 65% watch TV on Shabbat, according to the findings of an extensive study conducted by the Guttman Center at the Israel Democracy Institute and published Thursday.
Apart from the fact that four of five Israeli Jews believe in God, the study’s findings revealed that 77% are convinced that the world is guided by an “extraordinary force”, 72% believe that praying can improve a person’s situation, 67% are convinced that the Jews are the chosen people, and 65% think Torah and mitzvot are a divine order.
According to 34% of the respondents, a Jew who fails to observe mitzvot puts his fellow people in danger. Fifty-six believe in an “afterlife” and 51% believe in the coming of the Messiah.
Even more than the general faith in Judaism, the survey reveals that a very high percentage of Jews view traditional Jewish ceremonies to mark milestones in a person’s life as extremely important: Ninety-four percent said so about circumcision, 92% about the seven days of mourning after a relative’s death, 91% about the bar mitzvah ceremony, 90% about saying the Kaddish prayer over deceased parents, 86% about Jewish burial, and 83% about the bat mitzvah ceremony.
Eighty percent viewed marriage blessed by a rabbi as important, but at the same time – about half of the respondents (51%) believe Israel must allow civil marriage without Rabbinate involvement.
Despite the relatively high percentage of those who view mitzvot as a divine command, only one-third of respondents said they observe Shabbat.
Most Jews in Israel maintain traditional characteristics: Eighty-four percent spend time with their family, 69% hold a special meal, 66% light candles and 60% say the Kiddush prayer.
On the other hand, 65% watch television or listen to the radio on the day of rest, and 52% surf the Internet. Thirty-seven percent engage in sports activities or go to the beach, 29% eat out, 16% go shopping and 11% work.
Like Shabbat, Jewish holidays are also respected by the Israeli public. Eighty-five percent of respondents believe it is important to mark Jewish holidays according to tradition.
Eighty-two percent light Hanukkah candles, 68% fast on Yom Kippur (fully or partially) and 67% avoid leavened food on Passover. On the other hand, only 36% take part in the reading of the Book of Esther on Purim and 20% in the study of religious literature during the first night of Shavuot.
Most Jews in Israel eat kosher food at home (76%) and slightly fewer do the same outside (70%). However, only 63% are strict about not mixing meat and milk. Seventy-two percent say they never eat pork.
Additional figures reveal that 71% believe it is important to study the Bible and other Jewish holy and literary sources, but only 10% to 20% actually do so. Thirteen percent consult rabbis on personal matters and 24% visit tombs of the righteous.
Among those with a higher income or education, there are more secular Jews and less traditional Jews.
Eighty-five percent of haredim and 49% of religious Jews said they would obey Halacha rather than the law or democratic values in case of a clash between the two. In total, 44% of all respondents will obey law and democracy, 20% will favor Halacha and 36% have no unequivocal opinion.
For example, in terms of a public Shabbat, there is a significant majority in favor of everyday activities: Sixty-eight are in favor of keeping cafés, restaurants and movie theaters open on the day of rest, 64% are in favor of sports events, 59% support the operation of public transportation, and 58% are in favor of opening shopping centers on Shabbat.
Forty-eight percent said that even those who have undergone non-Orthodox conversion are considered Jewish, 40% include a son of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, and 33% say that anyone who feels Jewish is Jewish.