Israel fractures by faith on politics and society

(RNS) Israel today grapples with profound existential questions of its national identity, including how Jewish the Jewish state can be.

More than three-quarters (76 percent) of Israeli Jews believe their country can be both Jewish and democratic, a view rejected by majorities of Israeli Muslims and Christians, according to a comprehensive new survey released by the Washington-based Pew Research Center Tuesday (March 8).

The report also highlights the precarious relationship between Jews and Arabs in Israel, with nearly half (48 percent) of Jewish Israelis favoring the expulsion or transfer of Arabs from the nation.

“The survey finds deep religious divisions in Israeli society, not only between Jews and Arabs, but also among Jews,” said Alan Cooperman, director of religion research at Pew.

Among the report’s other findings: While nearly all Israeli Jews say they’re Jewish, half (49 percent) consider themselves secular, even as they engage in some Jewish religious practices. And one in five Jewish Israelis profess no belief in God.

“Mostly what we find is a huge gulf between ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews,” said Neha Sahgal, a senior researcher on the survey, “Israel’s Religiously Divided Society,” which is based on face-to-face interviews of more than 5,600 Israeli Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze.

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