Taking a look at the hard numbers

Hiddush releases 2013 Religion and State Index; increased support for freedom of marriage and Jewish pluralism

In the fifth consecutive Religion and State Index, there is a noticeable rise in support for non-Orthodox marriages and conversions. A majority of Israelis support equal recognition of Reform and Conservative Rabbis.

On September 4th, 2013, the eve of the Jewish New Year, Hiddush- Freedom of Religion for Israel released the 2013 Religion and State Index.

Click here to read the report

The yearly index is the most comprehensive public opinion survey on religion and state issues in Israel and demonstrates strong public backing for freedom of religion. Since its inception in 2009, the index has indicated consistent support for freedom of marriage and same-sex marriage, equal legal recognition of all major Jewish denominations, cutting subsidies to the ultra-Orthodox sector. The Index analyses these trends along with other fascinating results, highlighting the role of religion and state issues in the political aftermath of the 2013 Knesset elections.

This is the first index to be published since the creation of the Netanyahu-Lapid-Bennett government. All previous indices reported that a majority of Israelis opposed the excessive influence of ultra-Orthodox parties on religion and state policies in Israel and supported a government coalition without them. In the last Index, two-thirds of Israeli Jews said that the ultra-Orthodox parties' political activities distance Israelis from Judaism. The current government, in many ways, came as a result of this sentiment. In the current Index, 64% of Israeli Jews express support for a government coalition without ultra-Orthodox parties in order to prevent them from further influencing Israel's religion and state dynamic.

Hiddush Chair, Stanley P. Gold, reacted to the 2013 Religion and State Index's findings, saying, "These are dramatic results. There is no doubt there is little patience left from the Israeli public for the ultra-Orthodox monopoly on Judaism. There is a growing demand for freedom of choice in Jewish life in Israel. We hope that in the coming year, Jewish organizations and leaders in the Diaspora will demonstrate more support for this critical agenda. Freedom of religion and equality in Israel is not merely an internal Israeli issue, but touches at the heart of Israel -Diaspora relations and has a far-reaching effect on Israel's Democracy. “

Rabbi Uri Regev, Hiddush President, said: "It is clear from the Index that, at least regarding religion and state, there is an immense gap between the public's strong will for freedom of religion and the government's policies. This is still true even following the election of a civil government coalition that, for the first time in years, does not include nor depend on ultra-Orthodox parties. The 2013 Religion and State Index clearly reveals a growing acceptance of Reform and Conservative Judaism by Israelis, and the public's desire for the option of civil and non-Orthodox marriages, public transportation on Shabbat, and conversion recognized from all major denominations, but the government has yet to do any of this!"

“We hope”, stated Gold and Regev, “that our consistent and comprehensive annual study of Israeli public opinion regarding religion and state will help mobilize public action both in Israel and among Jewish communities outside Israel towards fully realizing the goal of 'freedom of religion and conscience' as promised in Israel's Declaration of Independence. It is essential for both Israel's democratic and Jewish character.”


“We hope that the 2013 Index will help mobilize public action both in Israel and among Jewish communities outside Israel towards fully realizing the goal of 'freedom of religion and conscience' as promised in Israel's Declaration of Independence.”

Here are some of the Key findings:

The toughest tension: 74% of the Jewish population (3 out of 4 respondents) sees the tension between secular and ultra-Orthodox populations as the most (or second-most) harsh domestic conflict in Israeli society. Other conflicts dramatically lag behind (47% - between political left and right and33% - between rich and poor).

• 83% of the Jewish population support freedom of religion and conscience in Israel.

Exchanging vows, without the Chief Rabbinate: 62% support recognition of civil, Reform and Conservative marriages in Israel (currently, only Orthodox marriages are recognized for Jews); 67% of secular Israeli Jews would prefer a non-Orthodox alternative for their own marriage or for their children.

Same-sex marriage: 56% of Israeli Jews and 77% of secular Israelis believe that Israel should recognize same-sex marriage.

Equality for all denominations: 67%, including 56% of Habayit Hayehudi (the Modern Orthodox party) voters, support granting equal recognition by the government to Rabbis from all Jewish denominations. Only 33% hold that the Chief Rabbinate and rabbinic courts should continue their monopoly on Judaism in Israel. This question was asked for the first time and indicates rising acceptance of Reform and Conservative Judaism. 70% of the Israeli Jews oppose the continued existence of Chief Rabbinate in its current form.

Just leave the ultra-Orthodox out of it: Almost two-thirds of Israeli Jews (64%) support a government coalition without ultra-Orthodox parties.

Keep on cutting: 75% support budget cuts to ultra-Orthodox yeshivas as motivation for seeking employment, 63% hold that the government should stop funding ultra-Orthodox schools that do not teach core curriculum (Math, science, English and civics). 79% hold that the government should require ultra-Orthodox schools to teach these core curricular studies.

Support for Shabbat Shopping. Two-thirds of Israeli Jews (67%) support Shabbat business hours in shopping centers located outside of cities. 59% support the same policy for small markets and convenience stores. 64% support public transportation on Shabbat.

 • High government disapproval: 76% of the Israelis are not pleased with the government's activities regarding religion and state. 76% are not pleased with Yesh Atid party and its leader Finance Minister Yair Lapid's performance in this area, including 52% of Yesh Atid voters.

Who are you calling religious? Though Habayit Hayehudi is the traditional choice for Modern Orthodox Israelis and a member of the government coalition, it's constituency is far more diversified on religious issues: 44% of its voters support separation of religion and state, 50% support opening shopping centers on Shabbat and holidays outside of cities and 56% support equal recognition of rabbis of all streams in Judaism.

*The Religion and State Index is conducted for Hiddush by the Rafi Smith Polling Institute. The study is based on telephone interviews, done between July 10-24th, 2013 with 800 adult Jewish respondents to represent the adult Jewish Israeli population. The 2013 Religion and State Index was published with support from the New Israel Fund of Canada.

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