Israel becoming progressively polarized

Jerusalem, Israel - Israeli society has become increasingly polarized regarding its religious affiliation, a survey released by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Sunday revealed.

According, to the survey, between 2002 and 2004 there was a marked rise in the relative number of Jews defining themselves as being haredi and secular and a drop in those classifying themselves as being modern-Orthodox and traditional.

Eight percent of Jews defined themselves as being haredi, up from 6% in 2002, 9% as modern-Orthodox, 39% as traditional and 44% as secular (in comparison to 42% in 2002).

According to the data collated in 2004, 81% of Israel's population is Jewish, 12% Muslim, 3.5% Christian, 1.5% Atheist and 0.5% of other religious affiliations.

In the Arab sector, 11% described themselves as being 'very religious', 49% as being religious, 21% as not so religious and 18% as secular. In contrast with the polarization of Jews, as demonstrated by the survey, there was almost no change in the religious composition of Arabs.

Amongst second generation Israeli Jews, 13% described themselves as being haredi and 52% as secular.

Other data showed that native Israelis whose families originated from Europe or the US made up a significant percentage of the secular grouping (63%), while those originating from Asia and Africa made up a smaller portion of the secular division.

Immigrants who came to Israel since the 1990s made up a relatively low proportion of religious Jews compared with native Israelis. Only 7% of immigrants defined themselves as religious as oppose to 18% of native Israelis.

In addition, 6% of immigrants were defined as being traditional as opposed to 11% of native Israelis. 87% of immigrants said they were traditional, non-religious or secular as opposed to 71% of native Israelis.

A large portion of the secular pool (32%) had obtained high academic qualifications, as opposed to those Jews with religious affiliations: amongst the religious respondents, a high portion (6%) had never received any secular education. 30% of haredim claimed that the yeshiva was the last place they had studied or where they were studying today as opposed to 5% of modern-Orthodox Jews.

There was seemingly a direct correlation between high levels of religiosity and inferior living conditions: 27% of haredim said that they resided in overcrowded living conditions as opposed to 6% of modern-Orthodox Jews and 2% of secular Jews. Only 29% of haredim said that their families owned a car as opposed to 60-73% of modern-Orthodox, traditional or secular Israelis.

Only about one third (32%) of haredim claimed that they worked for a living as opposed to 66% of the modern-Orthodox and 73% of secular Israelis.

The study was conducted in December and January of 2004. In total, 7,616 adults over the age of 20 participated in the survey that represented 4.2 million Israelis over that age.