President Reuven Rivlin met with representatives of the US based Pew Research Center, who presented to him their latest survey and research entitled, “The Israeli Mosaic: Identity, Society, and Religion”, which was conducted with a 5,601 sampling of Israeli Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Druse respondents.
The President said, “This is a survey which must be placed before the decision makers in Israel, before the Government of Israel. It points to the need to address our problems at home, more than ever. When I spoke in June last year at the Herzliya Conference, about the four tribes of Israeli society, I wished to place a mirror for us to look in to. Looking at us as a society, it is clear we believe Israel is – in one breath – a democratic and Jewish state. The idea that the State of Israel could be democracy only for its Jewish citizens is unconscionable and we must find a way to address this.”
The President added, “I spoke last year in Herzliya, about the social challenge posed by the demographic changes Israel was experiencing. Moving away from a state made up of one clear secular majority alongside religious, chareidim -Orthodox, and Arab minorities. Today’s first grade children are a clear portrayal of how Israeli society looks, with just over a quarter secular Israelis, a quarter ultra-Orthodox, a quarter Arab, and just under a quarter modern orthodox. Your survey brings into focus the perceptual gaps that exist in the State of Israel when it comes to issues of faith, religion, culture, democracy, and the connection between these gaps and the people’s cultural and religious affiliations. From this research, we see sharply our obligation to work harder to create more understanding and familiarity, to bring together the different communities and groups. Your survey and its significant findings must serve as a wake-up call for Israeli society, to bring about some soul searching and moral reflection. It pains me to see the gap that exist in the public’s consciousness – religious and secular – between the notion of Israel as a Jewish state and as a democratic state. I believe that that also our democratic values are born out of our Jewish faith, a ‘love for the stranger’, and equality before the law – these are not foreign values, this is Judaism.”
He added, “A further problem, is the attitude towards Israel’s Arab citizens. There is a difference between the way in which Israeli Arabs perceive themselves in the high percentages, as discriminated against, and the number of Jews who are confident that there is no discrimination. For many years, I have said that social questions, no less than security issues, are a strategic concern. I thank you for your presenting this to me, and I hope we will find the way to better understand Israeli society, and the challenges and opportunities before it.”
On behalf of the Pew Research Center, Alan Cooperman, Director of Religion Research presented the report’s findings. He said, “Seven decades after the founding of the state, a large majority of Israeli Jews, see Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, with the right to ‘Aliyah’ as a natural right. A great majority also see the importance of preserving Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. However, when we ask what should happen in the case of a friction between Jewish and democratic values, the answers were greatly divided between the different groups in Israeli society. The rift on this issue also exists between the Jewish and Arab populations of Israel.”
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)