First comprehensive study in a decade also shows that 70 percent of Israelis believe the Jews are the ‘Chosen People.’
Some 80 percent of Israeli Jews believe that God exists – the highest figure found by the Guttman-Avi Chai survey since this review of Israeli-Jewish beliefs began two decades ago.
The latest survey of the “Beliefs, Observance and Values among Israeli Jews” was conducted in 2009 but the results were released only on Thursday, after a detailed analysis had been completed. The two previous surveys were in 1999 and 1991.
The study also found that 70 percent of respondents believe the Jews are the “Chosen People,” 65 percent believe the Torah and mitzvot (religious commandments ) are God-given, and 56 percent believe in life after death.
Among other things, it found that less than half of Israeli Jews think that, in a clash between Jewish law and democracy, democratic values should always prevail. Only 44 percent said that if Jewish law and democratic values clashed, the latter should always be preferred, while 20 percent said Jewish law should always be preferred and 36 percent said “sometimes one and sometimes the other.”
The study, conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute’s Guttman Center for Surveys and the Avi Chai Foundation, is based on interviews with 2,803 Israeli Jews.
Fifty five percent said they believe in the coming of the Messiah, up from 45 percent in 1999 but similar to 53 percent in 1991, while 37 percent said that “a Jew who does not observe the religious precepts endangers the entire Jewish people,” up from 30 percent in 1999 but again similar to the 1991 figure of 35 percent.
The study also found an upswing in religious practice. For instance, 85 percent of respondents said that “celebrating the Jewish holidays as prescribed by religious tradition” was “important” or “very important,” up from 63 percent in 1999, while 70 percent said they “always” or “frequently” refrained from eating hametz (leavened bread ) on Passover, up from 67 percent in 1999.Fully 61 percent of respondents said the state should “ensure that public life is conducted according to Jewish religious tradition,” up dramatically from 44 percent in 1991.
A Gallup poll conducted in 57 countries shows 9% decline in people who consider themselves religious, compared to a similar survey conducted in 2005.
Of the religions surveyed in the poll, Jews were found to be the least religious: Only 38 percent of the Jewish population worldwide considers itself religious, while 54 sees itself as non-religious and 2 percent categorizes itself as atheist. In comparison, 97 percent of Buddhists, 83 percent of Protestant Christians and 74 percent of Muslims consider themselves religious.