Monday, 6 February 2012

How secular is "Secular?"

Let me share with you some of the results of an extensive report released this week from the Israeli Democracy Institute from the AVI CHAI foundation. It’s entitled:

“A portrait of Israeli Jews”. You can find it here:

The report is actually from 2009 but its publication had been deferred for three years.

Listen to some of its findings which represented a broad cross section of Israeli society

How would you define yourself religiously?
7% Charedi
15% dati or orthodox
32% Traditional
43% Secular- not anti religious
3% Secular anti religious.

So that puts it at 54% as religious against 46% who are secular In Israel.

Now listen to the responses to the following questions:
To what extent do you believe?
That G-d exists: 80%
That good deeds are rewarded: 80%
A higher power governs the world: 77%
Bad deeds are punished: 74%
The Torah and the precepts are G-d given: 65%

Lifecycle questions:
Respondents for whom Jewish lifecycle ceremonies are very important or important:
Circumcision: 94%
Sitting Shiva: 92%
Bar Mitzvah: 91%
Saying  Kaddish for parents: 90%
Traditional Jewish burial: 86%
Bat Mitzvah: 83%
Being married by a Rabbi: 80%

To what extent do you always or usually:
Eat Kosher at home: 80%
Eat kosher outside the home: 70%
Separate meat from dairy: 63%

 I could go on…90% of people attend a Pesach Seder. 82% of people light Chanukah candles. 67% of people refrain from eating Chametz throughout Pesach.

Now listen to this: 66% light Shabbat candles. 60% recite Kiddush on Friday night. 69% eat a Friday night meal. 84% spend time with the family.

I think these results are staggering.
Remember 46% of people are actually Chiloni- secular. But the question is how secular is secular if you have a high proportion of people who call themselves Secular who are keeping lifecycle events; Shabbat, the Yomim Tovim and Kashrut, believing in G-d and the Torah, yet profess to being irreligious.

Is it possible that they are not entirely telling the truth when they profess to being secular, but believe in G-d?

Could it also be that the secular/ religious divide in Israel is not as acute as the media portrays, or would like it to be? There are only 3% of Israelis in Israel in 2009 who would define themselves as Secular anti religious!!

If you think that I am making up these figures –go look for yourself.

Last week in Shul we read the Song of Moses. After witnessing the Parting of the sea of Reeds, the Torah says: “And they believed in G-d and in His servant Moses”.

Very good, after witnessing all the greatest miracles first hand from G-d, I think that would turn even the greatest cynic into a believer. But look at the story at what transpires next.. They travel in the wilderness and the Israelites complain to G-d for water to drink, they journey further and the Israelites again complain to G-d for food, this time they remember the food in Egypt. They travel again, and they murmur against Moses and Aharon, crying out for water to drink.
Each time, the Israelites complain, but G-d delivers.
 So the question is what kind of faith could they have possibly have had, when each time they test Moses and G-d to the extreme?

Yisrael maaminim bnei Maaminim. Israel are believers, the children of believers. There is something that comes deep down from our souls; it comes from our experience, our history. The fact that we were the ones who stood at Mt Sinai and heard the word  first hand from G-d- the fact that we experienced and witnessed the exodus, culminating in the parting of the Sea. The fact that G-d sustained us and led us through the desert for the forty years  leading us to the promised land-is something that has become ingrained as part of our psyche- as a people.

 So when somebody says to me: “Rabbi- I’m not religious- I don’t believe.” What exactly is he/she saying? 

Think about it!


  1. Your collection of statistics and article attached are so positive and encouraging. Thank you!

    Ester Katz-Winter
    Manager Overseas Connections Desk
    Kibbutz Lavi Hotel,

  2. Interesting. But if the question had been "Do you think businesses should be allowed to open on Saturday?" or "Should civil marriage be available?" or "Should Jew and Arab be allowed to marry in Israel?" - the answers might not have pleased the religious so much.