World

Report: Israelis Self-Segregate By Religion

| by Nik Bonopartis
Orthodox Jews at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.Orthodox Jews at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

Israel is home to adherents of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths -- and at least four distinct subgroups of the Jewish faith -- but when it comes to things like marriage and social life, the groups mostly keep to themselves.

That's according to new data released on March 8 by the Pew Research Center, which cited "major social fractures in Israeli society" based on religious identity.

For example, while Haredi (Orthodox) Jews and secular Jews all fall under the larger umbrella of Judaism, people who belong to those groups tend to marry their own, and rarely form friendships with people outside their religious-social circles, Pew Research Center found.

The data, which was compiled from interviews with 5,601 Israelis, found that 40 percent of the country's citizens identified as secular Jews. Another 23 percent identified with traditional Judaism, while 10 percent identified as dati, or religious, and 8 percent consider themselves ultra-Orthodox.

Fourteen percent of Israeli citizens are Muslims, while Christians and Druze, an Arabic-speaking ethnoreligious group, each account for 2 percent of the population.

"One of the best questions to use for overall comparisons like this is to ask how important is religion in your life," Alan Cooperman, the director of religious research at the Pew Research Center, said in an interview with Haaretz.

In Israel, 36 percent of all respondents said religion is very important in their daily lives, compared with 50 percent of Americans, Cooperman said.

Unlike countries like the U.S., where marriage is licensed and sometimes performed by government officials, marriages in Israel "are conducted within religious courts and according to religious law," notes Pew Research Center.

As a result, marriage between people of different faiths or sects is exceedingly rare. Among Muslims, Christians and Druze, only 1 percent of cohabiting or married adults told Pew that their spouse belongs to a different faith. Only 2 percent of Jewish respondents said their spouse is not Jewish, according to Pew.

The same holds true among Jewish subgroups. For example, the study found that 95 percent of ultra-Orthodox and 93 percent of secular Jews said their spouse or partner is from the same subgroup.

Similarly, 80 percent of secular Jews and 99 percent of ultra-Orthodox Jews said they would be opposed to their children marrying Christians, with similar percentages of interreligious discomfort at the prospect of their children marrying Muslims.

Source: Pew Research Center, Jewish Philanthropy / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons via Breaking Israel News

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