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Poll: 70% of Israeli Jews believe Jews are 'Chosen People'

If Judaism and democracy clash, which do you think Israelis would chose? And why is asking “where is the Palestinian Gandhi” the wrong question? You may be surprised

Ultra-Orthodox children in Jerusalem (photo: flickr / yoavelad)

The settlements in the West Bank have been called a “ticking bomb” more than once. And rightfully so: They’ve been growing year after year, without anyone doing a thing to stop it, and have actually “exploded” the two-state solution into oblivion.

Yet Israels have another ticking bomb they have failed to dismantle over the years. A ticking bomb that could make all the diplomacy efforts of peace activists, politicians and nations seems like the biggest waste of time mankind has ever seen: the effort by Israelis to separate from Palestinians only to end up living in a theocracy.

Haaretz leads this morning with a poll from the Israel Democracy Institute’s Guttman Center for Surveys and the Avi Chai Foundation, that found that “80 percent of Israeli Jews believe that God exists – the highest figure found by the Guttman-Avi Chai survey since this review of Israeli-Jewish beliefs began two decades ago.”

The strongest proof of Israel’s steps towards theocracy came in the following data:

“It found that only 46 percent of Israeli Jews now define themselves as secular, down from 52 percent in 1999, while 22 percent define themselves as either Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox, up from 16 percent in 1999. The remaining 32 percent term themselves traditional, virtually unchanged from 1999.”

…The study’s authors cited two reasons for the rise in religiosity. One is that immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who contributed to the drop in religiosity from 1991 to 1999, have now assimilated into Israeli society. Various studies have found that this process of assimilation has resulted in Soviet immigrants becoming more traditional. The second reason is the demographic change caused by the higher Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox birthrates.”

These birthrates are already changing lives in Israel. Less than half of Israelis in first grade are secular.

Figure 10 shows that in just 10 years, the number of students in Haredi schools went up by 57%, in Arab schools by 37%.

If these trends continue, by the year 2040 78% of primary school students will study in Haredi and Arab school systems, as the figure below shows.

Here are a few more amazing “gems” from this poll (my bold):

“The study also found that 70 percent of respondents believe the Jews are the “Chosen People,” 65 percent believe the Torah and mitzvot (religious commandments ) are God-given, and 56 percent believe in life after death… Among other things, it found that less than half of Israeli Jews think that, in a clash between Jewish law and democracy, democratic values should always prevail.

If these trends do indeed continue, there will most surely be an acceleration in their speed as more and more secular Israelis realize what the country is turning in to and decide to pack up and leave, thus bringing the tipping point even earlier.


Besides their fascination with God, Israelis apparently have a baby-face fetish, too.

According to a study conducted by Dr. Yifat Maoz from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, peace offers from baby-faced politicians had a better chance of winning over the opposing population than the exact same offer coming from leaders with more mature faces.

Prof. Maoz provided Jewish-Israeli respondents with a fictional news item containing a peace proposal and a fictional Palestinian leader’s photograph. The photograph was manipulated to appear as either baby-faced or mature by making a 15% change in the size of eyes and lips. Respondents were then asked to evaluate the peace offer and rate the trustworthiness of the politician who offered it.

Although both images were based on the same original, the baby-faced politician was judged as more trustworthy and his peace proposal received greater support than the same offer from the mature-faced politician.

”People generally associate a baby face with attributes of honesty, openness and acceptance,” explains Prof. Maoz, ”and once you trust your adversary, you have a greater willingness to reach a compromise.”

Ah, but there are two sides to the coin, aren’t there, Dr. Maoz?

Maoz adds that there are situations in which a baby-face is not advantageous: ”Although features of this type can lend politicians an aura of sincerity, openness and receptiveness, at the same time they can communicate a lack of assertiveness. So people tend to prefer baby-faced politicians as long they represent the opposing side, while on their own side they prefer representatives who look like they know how to stand their ground.”

So basically, we like our enemies to have baby faces so they can give up easier.

Yup, that sounds just about right.

It seems like all these years we should never have been asking “where is the Palestinian Gandhi?” to begin with.

The real question was actually “where is the Palestinian babyface?”

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    1. sh

      Amazing that anyone should be amazed by the high percentage of belief in God in Israel. I’ll stick my neck out and say that the percentage in the rest of the world is likely to be similar. One of the left’s biggest weaknesses is the misunderstanding of that quasi-universal tendency.
      Baby-faces coming to mind that confirm the other trend described: Ahmad Tibi, Hassan Nasrallah, Khaled Mashaal, Ismail Haniyeh. Which babyfaces were used to posit the theory about Jewish peaceniks?

      Reply to Comment
      • I think this is one of the biggest issue and i don’t know why people are so in religion and dividing themselves from others. Maybe jews are chosen people or maybe not? who knows and i think we all are chosen people that why we are human.

        Reply to Comment
    2. @sh – speaking of “big weaknesses” as you say, how about sticking your neck out and finding us numbers to prove your point?
      And, this is not only about the high percentage – but the rise over the years.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Lila

      Why the negative twist on the “baby face” thing. It is a fascinating and potentially useful finding – and it confirms something that should be obvious to everyone: people tend to be more willing to compromise when they feel less threatened.

      And in terms of belief in God – here are some numbers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism#Geographic_distribution

      “A 2004 BBC poll showed the number of people in the US who don’t believe in a god to be about 9%.[10] A 2008 Gallup poll showed that a smaller 6% of the US population believed that no god or universal spirit exists.”

      And a table on Europe: (the first column describes belief in a god, the second belief in some kind of “life force” or spirit, and third – no belief.

      Turkey 95% 2% 1%
      Malta 95% 3% 1%
      Cyprus 90% 7% 2%
      Romania 90% 8% 1%
      Greece 81% 16% 3%
      Portugal 81% 12% 6%
      Poland 80% 15% 1%
      Italy 74% 16% 6%
      Ireland 73% 22% 4%
      Croatia 67% 25% 7%
      Slovakia 61% 26% 11%
      Spain 59% 21% 18%
      Austria 54% 34% 8%
      Lithuania 49% 36% 12%
      Switzerland 48% 39% 9%
      Germany 47% 25% 25%
      Luxembourg 44% 28% 22%
      Hungary 44% 31% 19%
      Belgium 43% 29% 27%
      Finland 41% 41% 16%
      Bulgaria 40% 40% 13%
      Iceland 38% 48% 11%
      United Kingdom 38% 40% 20%
      Latvia 37% 49% 10%
      Slovenia 37% 46% 16%
      France 34% 27% 33%
      Netherlands 34% 37% 27%
      Norway 32% 47% 17%
      Denmark 31% 49% 19%
      Sweden 23% 53% 23%
      Czech Republic 19% 50% 30%
      Estonia 16% 54% 26%

      Reply to Comment
    4. Lila – I suppose my words could be read as a negative twist, but I’m not 100% sure your analysis is the way to go as well.
      As for that data, it’s interesting – even though a few years old already.
      As for evangelical America, you left this out: “The most recent ARIS report, released March 9, 2009, found in 2008, 34.2 million Americans (15.0%) claim no religion…”. And that’s before we ask the remaining 85% who DO have a religion if they believe in a God.
      Also, “The latest statistics show that a lack of religious identity increased in every US state between 1990 and 2008” – which is the opposite direction of the way things seems to be going in Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    5. LIla

      Sorry, but just one more point: It is likely that “god” means different things in different cultures. In Germany, for example, 47% said they believed in god, and another 25% said they believed in a spirit or life force. I would imagine that the breakdown between those two columns would vary from country to country, depending among other things on how people popularly conceive of the idea of “god”.

      From what I was able to gather, the current survey asked people to rate on a scale from 1-4 whether they believed in different things. In terms of belief in god, 80% gave it either a one or a two – in other words, answered that they either believe wholeheartedly or that they believe, but sometimes doubt. Or as the survey analysis put it:

      “The average score for the items related to belief in a higher power was 2 (on a scale where 0 indicates no belief and 3 indicates full belief). In other words, we could say that Israeli Jews are religious believers, but “sometimes aren’t sure.” Two main trends can be noted here: with regard to belief in general (such as the existence of a higher power that governs the world) there has been a slight but statistically significant increase in the percentage of believers in 2009 as
      compared to 1999 and 1991. On the other hand, with regard to specifically Jewish items (such
      as the coming of the Messiah), belief was lower in 1999 than in 1991, but had returned to the
      1991 level in 2009.”

      Reply to Comment
    6. Lila – while I agree with some of your observations, I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to say: that this survey is incorrect? That Israel is not becoming more religious? That the ultra-orthodox community is not growing? What exactly is your point?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Also – I find it interesting the cherry picking you and SH have done: do you think that in Western countries (because Israel is Western, right?) that more than half of the population think Christian law is above democracy? That they are a “chosen people” above all the rest of the world? Come on.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Lila

      Ami – Sorry, I posted the last comment before I saw your reply. Yes, the trends seem to be different – (although of the 15% who claimed no religion in the US, only 1.6% claimed to be atheist or agnostic, up from .9%). All I’m saying is that there seems to be a considerable gap between the Haaretz headline and the actual survey results, which are somewhat more nuanced.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Rachel

      About the decline in the number of children enrolled in the secular school system – wouldn’t the easiest way to ensure more integration be to persuade middle class, secular-ish Arab Israelis to join it and adjust the curriculum accordingly? Of course, an Israeli that did this would be a very different one from the one we have now, and that’s the main problem here. But it always seems so silly that Arab Israelis are presented as a demographic bloc in these kinds of discussions – there is the fear of losing the Jewish majority but that’s a separate discussion, since this one revolves around how the different school streams inculcate different value systems and polarise the country, it seems more logical to also break down the Arab population and see how much crossover there might be for integrating a part of it into wider society.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Rachel

      *Sorry, “an Israel that did this would be a very different one from the one we have now, and that’s the main problem here.”

      Reply to Comment
    11. Mikesailor

      When 70% believe that they are ‘Chosen’ and therefore less than half believe that democracy and democratic values should trump religion, you have a theocracy. And theocracies never accept reason or rationality to trump the imposition of their ‘morality’ upon society as a whole. Belief in God, or spirituality is not the issue. Instead it is the belief that imposition of religion and religious dictates upon society will create a more ‘God-approved’ society. Therefore, why learn math or science, history or literature, when all you need to know is religion? Every answer to every question is found within the boundaries of one book seen as containing all knowledge interpreted by ‘religious scholars’ without dissenting views. For religion brooks no debate nor compromise. All arguments are easily dissolved or denigrated as, not merely arguments, but heresy. And ‘heretics’ must be not only shunned but actively rooted out and destroyed.
      As fewer and fewer Israelis are exposed to anything but a ‘religious’ education, how many seculars will leave? Will the future of this piece of land be inhabited by Jews, who know religion and nothing else, and Arabs whose education is, according to the graph, funded at below third world standards? Worrying about the mullahs in Iran potentially having the knowledge to build an atomic bomb pales in comparison to having religious zealots in Israel already having nuclear weapons. While other countries seem to be relying more and more upon reason as the common denominator to manage societal needs and understanding, with compromise and tolerance seen as vital components of social discourse, Israel is regressing. They are marching steadily backward.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Ami, I suggest to you that present in all people who consider themselves Jewish is the sense “I am superior to all other people, because I am chosen by God”, whether or not that person consciously admits that is so. God did select the nation of Israel to be special to him. But not because those people agreed to that; (as most Orthodox Jews claim). More because having kicked the human race out of the Garden of Eden, humans retained their rebellious attitude toward God, even after the Flood and the Tower of Babel incident; so God decided she needed to form a special people, and work with them for close to 2,000 years (from Abraham to Christ), so that when she came again (in the person of Christ) to demonstrate how humans could once again give up their intrinsic opposition to God’s guidance, there would be a few humans that would listen and apply her message.

      She created that special people, worked with them, and a few did accept her message when she came as Christ. Since then there has been no special relationship between God and the Israelites. And since then all who continue to perceive themselves as Jewish assume that specialness out of tribalism, a need to live in the past and a refusal to accept God’s plan for all humans; which is that all humans develop and learn to master daily living. And this form of special exists even more so in people who consider themselves Zionists.

      I further suggest that this specialness is the main driver to being Zionist. And as long as it is retained, will continue to motivate Zionists to move further and further along that path of separatism, and increasing violence and extreme means to maintain that separateness.

      I also suggest that all populations that moved from an exclusiveness to inclusiveness; South Africa with apartheid, and the US with anti-Black racism, as two examples; were also living on a foundation of specialness in the dominate population, (in South Africa and the US, Caucasians in relationship to Blacks). And it was a progressive rejection of that specialness among the Caucasians in those countries that lead to the end of official racism. And a major contributor to that specialness rejection was the colored people of both countries through non-violent demonstrations showing they were just as educated, sophisticated, and talented as the oppressors.

      Hence, until a majority of Israelis begin to discard that specialness, and a majority of Arabs developed sophisticated forms of showing their opposition, there will be no positive improvement in Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    13. directrob

      It is utterly crazy to have in 972mag a graph with a line for “ultra orthodox and arab” and a line for “state”.

      Reply to Comment
    14. aristeides

      I see two separate questions here. One, if the secular population is declining relative to the rest of the population, which it seems to be.

      Second, if the secular population is more or less likely to claim belief in any sort of god.

      Reply to Comment
    15. AT

      Two comments:

      1) This article sounds just like rightists when they talk about the “demographic” threat
      2) Projecting current trends 30 years into the future is an act of propaganda, not scientific thinking, always, and in all cases

      If you believe in enlightenment values, educate people about them. Don’t wave around charts about how Haredim are the enemy of the people.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Steve

      WARREN METZLER, who sure seems to twist everything against Jews and Israel in multiple discussions, said: “Ami, I suggest to you that present in all people who consider themselves Jewish is the sense “I am superior to all other people, because I am chosen by God”, whether or not that person consciously admits that is so.”

      Reality Check: Being “chosen” is a burden and it means to have to try to work hard to try to live up to God’s expectations. It’s nothing about “superiority” despite what Warren Metzler has now said in a dozen topics.

      Furthermore, it’s safe to say that Christians consider themselves “chosen” in their own way, as do Catholics, and Muslims, and others.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Steve

      WARREN METZLER wrote: “And since then all who continue to perceive themselves as Jewish assume that specialness out of tribalism, a need to live in the past and a refusal to accept God’s plan for all humans”
      … … … …
      My response: WARREN METZLER’s words sound like material that belongs on STORMFRONT or a neo-nazi site, and not a place like 972 magazine.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Ok people, how about this:

      “I made you differnt so you would be a test to each other.”
      “Vie among yourselves in good works, and leave your differences to me.”
      Both paraphrased quotes from the Qur’an (I am not Muslim).
      In both quotes, one must admit the existence of alternatives as viable as one’s own. Strange book, the Qur’an. Guess I better hate it.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Aaron

      One angle that hasn’t been mentioned yet is the ethnic angle. Not Jews/Arabs, but ashkenazim/mizrahim. This article expresses a typically ashkenazi-secular view: beliefs in God, Torah-from-Sinai, etc. show a dangerous trend towards extremism and theocracy. But a typical mizrahi-traditional view is that you can believe in God, Torah-from-Sinai, etc., and still drive to the beach on Shabbat. (Yes, these are only ideal types, I know there are lots of exceptions.) Maybe in addition to looking at this in ashkenazi black-and-white, as almost all of us naturally tend to do, we should also look at it in mizrahi shades of gray.

      Reply to Comment
    20. @AT – 1) It does a bit – and I don’t have a problem with it.
      2) The last thing you can say about Prof. Dan Ben David is that he spews propaganda. I suggest you visit the Taub Center website before spewing your own.

      Reply to Comment
    21. AYLA

      SH’s instincts are right on, and I have grown to value her comments above most everyone else’s here precisely because she cuts–with plenty of information–to the heart of matters. Statistics from existing polls are important but also a wiki-google-search away. Critical thinking, from the heart, that breaks through talking points and defensive reactions, is rare and can actually change our landscape.
      I wish, when people were polled about Jews being “The Chosen People”, that someone had bothered to define “”Chosen People” to those asked and to us. “The Chosen People” actually refers to one thing and one thing only: Jews being chosen, by God, to keep and teach the Torah. According to the Torah I read, that means a lot of responsibility, and it does not mean that a certain piece of land is ours on which to do what we please. Quite the contrary. The Torah is the Five Books of Moses, and after all that, guess who doesn’t get to enter The Land? That’s right, Moses. Why? He didn’t listen to God, but/and, what was God asking of Moses? To speak to the rock in order to garner water from this Rock now that Miriam (water bearer) had died and people were losing faith in the desert. Moses was asked to do this to restore people’s faith in God. Instead, Moses got frustrated (it was hot, and his sister had died, and the people were complaining, again), and he hit the rock, rather than speaking to it as God had commanded. For this, he was not permitted to enter the land. Let’s say, for the sake of this exercise, that Jews were chosen by God to keep the Torah. How are we doing, Chosen Folks? Earning our entry into The Land? You think? I’ll take my answers after shabbat ;).

      Reply to Comment
    22. @ayla – actually, i can’t say how surprised i am that you went along with SH’s cherry-picking. Did you read the whole survey? Did you see all the numbers? I’m pretty certain that if you did, you’d be very worried about the trends this survey shows about the country, and wouldn’t just discuss the meaning of “the chosen people” – one question alone in the survey. Instead of saying what’s a wiki-click away, why not click on the link to the news item and the survey itself here on this post.
      Also, I’m pretty sure a very large majority of Jews do not define the Chosen People as you do. But rather in the most simple ways they can: we’re chosen, and we’re better. I think you know that, too.
      So, you and SH can feel free to think that Israel is just like the States when it comes to belief in God. Let’s see what happens when you have no choice but to send your kids or grand-kids to religious schools.

      Reply to Comment
    23. aristeides

      From its very beginning, the state of Israel has refused to define itself either in terms of ethnicity or religion, leaving the issue to work itself out demographically. So the secular founders have lost, but whose fault is it but their own?

      Reply to Comment
    24. @aristeides – really? I thought from day one it was a state that decided it was Jewish and didn’t separate schul from state.

      Reply to Comment
      • Leeron

        It was only in areas of family law that Israel didn’t separate state from shul, or church or mosque, for that matter (there are Sharia Courts in Israel). [The problem here is the lack of an opt-out and a secular family court option, an issue which was inherited from the British and which will hopefully be addressed in the near future.]

        Israel is ETHNICALLY a Jewish state, just as Ireland is an Irish state or Hungary is the Magyar state.

        Lila is probably correct that the survey is more nuanced than the headline. What does it even mean? Which “Jewish laws” would be placed above democratic values?

        People are notoriously inconsistent. So while a majority may have approved such a generic statement, if asked about specific statements (e.g. should adulterers be stoned?) I’m sure 99% would say no.

        Do they want the buses not to run on Shabbat? No worries, pretty soon we’ll have self-driving cars/buses, no different than a Shabbos elevator. 🙂

        Reply to Comment
    25. AYLA

      Ami–sorry I didn’t respond to the meat of the article (you’re right). Generally, I don’t find it alarming that the majority of people in Israel, of all places, have faith in God (or a higher power or spirit). However, given the political context, I share your concern about the growing number of ultra-relgious citizens, since they separate themselves from civil society and in Israel, there is no separation of Church and State. As I said on the fb thread, to an American Jew, Jewish Values are not at odds with democracy; quite the contrary. But in Israel, democracy is for all her people, which is at odds with the Jewish Agenda. I don’t think it would hurt secular Israelis to define for themselves their Jewish values, as most American Jews do. It would be good for Israeli Jews not to feel they had to make a choice between democracy and Jewish values.
      As for the Chosen People (which, in fairness, is the title for the piece), in my experience, American Jews, when asked if we are the chosen people, would say, No–of course not, UNLESS they were religious and knew that this phrase meant that we’re chosen for the Torah, in which case they’d say Yes, of course. As far as I know, the understanding of this term has been abused by people who, based on the Torah, say this means we’re chosen for The Land, but I really don’t know of people thinking it just means we’re better. Of course, quite understandably, non-Jews hear it this way. This is just based on my experience; I could be wrong. This is why, like I said, I wish that the pollsters had also asked those polled to define “Chosen People” (or defined it themselves).
      I would personally like to live in an Israel where we upheld the Jewish Values of human rights and democracy and did not see these as conflicting forces.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Volodinjev

      So now, old and mainstream Jewish doctrine is an obstacle to peace. Is it +972Mag’s goal to give the best ammunition it can to those who conflate anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism?

      Reply to Comment
    27. aristeides

      Ami – and what does “Jewish” mean? They never dared to define it. And that was the problem.

      But everything I’ve learned about them strongly suggests that “state” trumped “shul” in all their considerations.

      Reply to Comment
    28. AYLA

      per the fb page thread: this country needs a constitution that defends all her people as equal. Even the country with “In God We Trust” on the dollar bill has this; how on earth can we even pretend to call ourselves a democracy without one? And Ami, I agree, that’s why comparisons between the U.S. and Israel completely break down on these issues.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Mikesailor

      I am always intrigued by the use of the term ‘Chosen’. It has many ramifications but the simplest way to define it is: exceptional or special. Therefore, to be ‘Chosen’ is to separate oneself from humanity as a whole. Yet, in reality, none of us are exceptional. We all eat, we all sleep, we all feel pain etc. So, what makes a ‘group’ exceptional since it is made up of unexceptional human beings? Are we merely chasing what Vonnegut in Cat’s Cradle labeled as ‘granfalloons’? A group designation which in reality means nothing at all? Individually we are unique compositions of DNA and experience, but as a group, what are we?
      I have maintained that if you look at what is ‘good’ for humanity as a whole, then every individual wins. Yet, if you only look at ‘what is good’ for your particular group, not only will such ‘victories’ you ‘earn’ be Pyrrhic, but there will be a backlash from those not in your ‘group’. Too many Jews believe that they are exceptional, that the ‘rules’ governing humanity as a whole do not apply to them. After all, what rules could possible bind the ‘Chosen’. What ideas of morality or common humanity can fetter these ‘Ubermenschen’? Likewise, many Americans, Western Europeans, Asians, Arabs, Africans etc. often feel, and act, the same. At a recent Republican debate, for instance, Ron Paul was booed by the audience when he advocated a foreign policy based on the Golden Rule. Why? Because this idea of exceptionalism, whether religiously, ethnically or nationality driven permeates the atmosphere and is perpetually indoctrinated in each succeeding generation even though it has always led each group down to failure. Like the Phoenix arising from the ashes however, it seems no bad idea is ever left without its defenders and will always rise again.

      Reply to Comment
    30. sh

      1) “because Israel is Western, right?” No, Israel thinks it is. I googled the words western culture as a penance for offending you with what you saw as cherry-picking (? not sure what you meant). This is a sample of what came up:
      and (oh, boy!) this: http://westerncultureglobal.org/what-is-western-culture.html
      By those definitions, either both Arabs and Jews are western, or neither are. That makes our harping on being a lone bastion of western culture in the context of the ME one more bludgeon in a discourse in which muzz-words like apartheid, colonialism, antisemitism, democracy, racism, anarchy, capitalism, fascism, patriotism, and of course zionism are employed as battering rams.
      2) I often wonder how many Israelis who are certain no deity exists
      – consult astrologers or mediums;
      – have their palms read;
      – believe that everyone should be western/atheist/communist/capitalist (like they are);
      – won’t walk under ladders;
      – kiss mezuzot on entering a place that has one.
      3) Apologies for not being scientific.
      4) Considering how recent Jewish atheism is – along with the fact that most of the generation that adopted it preached it like a religion while doctoring religious myths to justify breaking away from what had brought them to that point, came from ultra-orthodox homes – it’s hardly surprising that their children or grandchildren grope for something offering them a clearer identity than the cockamamy replacement coming from corrupt leaders. We’re not too different from the countries around us in that respect.
      5) Secular does not have to be anti-religious, religious does not have to be anti-secular. The two would be able to work out a modus vivendi if so many of their proponents were not erroneously convinced that they are antithetical. OK, I’d better google that too. Here’s a discussion – US-centric as is most of the web stuff in English – that makes a few points worth considering: http://www.enotes.com/law/discuss/do-you-think-that-nation-can-have-two-differe-96651
      Luckily we have in our midst some homegrown examples of harmony between religion and secularism who happen to be at the very forefront of the struggle to end the abuse and the violence. As they would probably already have explained much better than this ignoramus if they weren’t overstretched by all that is happening on the ground, it’s a question of using the right utensil: knowing for what to use a spoon and for what use a spade.

      Reply to Comment
    31. sh

      @AT – Agree.
      @Greg Pollock – ““Vie among yourselves in good works, and leave your differences to me.”” – Really nice.
      “Love your neighbour as yourself” and “Torah im derekh eretz” aren’t bad either. Both used to be pillars of Jewish diaspora education.
      @Aaron – Ashkenazi/Mizrahi-Sefardi are more of those bludgeon muzz-words. Pretending that the twain never met or intermingled until Israel was founded is a convenient myth for use by all sides to save them facing some jarring music. You don’t even need to leave Europe in order to explode it to smithereens and the beauty of it is that you can also stay in pre-Israel North Africa and the Middle East to do the same. “Mizrahi” names on Nazi deportation lists and “Ashkenazi” names among Jews expelled from neighboring Arab countries in the 1950s will please none employing that myth to explain a divide that in Israel is called “ethnic”, of course.
      @Mikesailor – “Therefore, to be ‘Chosen’ is to separate oneself from humanity as a whole. Yet, in reality, none of us are exceptional.”
      Discussing *for what* Jews were chosen is not new and religious Jews have some very wry answers to that, one of which is that it was to suffer. Feeling chosen for one thing does not prevent another from being chosen for something else. In reality, each of us – and by us I mean humanity – is exceptional in some way.

      Reply to Comment
    32. sh

      Ami, thanks. I’m cherry-picking Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Stick to the poll. It’s much shorter.

      Reply to Comment
    34. aristeides

      Ami – you keep posting that photo of three haredi boys dressed in a costume I don’t recognize. Do you know what sect dresses their kids that way?

      Reply to Comment
    35. Steve

      This is all well and good.

      Now please tell us if Islam teaches that Muslims are exceptional, or “chosen” (in their own way), or “better” etc. Please let us know what you find.

      And, tell us if Christianity teaches that Christians are in some way “better/exceptional”

      And please compare and contract this to what Judaism teaches

      And then look at history and see over the last 1,000 years who has been mostly peaceful and who hasn’t, and why

      These will make for fun articles!

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    36. @aristeides – nope.
      @steve – great comment! Saudi Arabia is a theocracy, so, what am I complaining about! You’re right! I can’t wait!
      (Or in other words: please keep moronic comments off this thread. Thanks.)

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    37. AYLA

      I <3 this thread (thanks, Ami and SH).

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    38. sh

      @Ami – “Stick to the poll. It’s much shorter.”
      Is it? I didn’t mean for anyone to reread The Idiot. Cherry-picked from your link on sarcasm:
      “Fyodor Dostoyevsky, on the other hand, recognized in it a cry of pain: Sarcasm, he said, was “usually the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.””
      Seriously, bemoaning what is already here doesn’t help. If today’s left is to have relevance, it could start to examine how it happened (under its watch) and to pinpoint where it could have been remedied before it got to the stage where the country no longer has even a semblance of unified education. Those who are interested in further fragmentation because it helps other agendas certainly won’t do it.

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    39. @sh – the words “left” and “relevance” in the same sentence made me giggle.
      Now that the believers are the majority, I think the ball is in their court. The “burden of proof” so to say, that they will accept agnostics and “disbelievers” is on them. It’s time they take responsibility, now that they’ve “won”.
      A post-mortem, as you suggest, could be useful if there was another chance to start from scratch. Not gonna happen.

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    40. Kibbutznik

      ” “A unique people,” wrote David Ben-Gurion. Alas, for that uniqueness. Instead of a Jewish and democratic state they have delivered us a Jewish state controlled by religious fanaticism, one that maintains the purity of the race. They have delivered a democracy in the most primitive sense – not the preservation of democratic values but rule by the demos, the populace that is dictating the transformation of Israel into a totalitarian ethnocracy. ”
      Shulamit Aloni

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    41. Tammy

      Often, on this channel especially, I learn much from the author and from the comment threads. Thank you, all, for the links and for the perspectives noting multiple contexts/parallels/cross-references over time and across space.

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    42. Thanks Tammy

      Reply to Comment
    43. Aaron

      SH – huh? If you don’t like my categories of ashkenazi/mizrahi, then call the distinction strict/lenient or rigid/flexible or whatever you want. But the distinction exists. There are those who can’t imagine believing both that God gave the Torah, including the commandment not to drive to the beach on shabbat, and also thinking it’s OK to drive to the beach on shabbat. There are many others who have no trouble with both together. The point is that very many “religious” Israelis, those whom Ami Kaufman apparently fears and loathes based on their answers to the survey, are actually quite flexible and not at all “theocratic” about their religion.
      I stand by my correlation of this with ashkenazi/mizrahi. This is actually a commonplace (usually “soccer game after synagogue” instead of “beach”), and my own anecdotal experience confirms it as well. Where did you get the idea I’m pretending that ashkenazim and mizrahim never met or influenced each other, or that the categories are perfectly defined? That came totally out of left field. I even emphasized that I was talking about ideal types. Even with all the mixing, though, these categories are meaningful.

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    44. @Aaron – if you want to continue posting on my channel, I highly recommend you refrain from putting words in my mouth – particularly saying that I loath this sector or another.
      If there’s anything I loath, it’s people who think they’re clairvoyant and can read my mind.

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    45. aristeides

      Steve’s comment is perfectly apt. The problem is exceptionalism, not any given religion. There’s not so much difference between being Chosen and being Saved. Just don’t limit your survey to 1000 years.

      Ami – you are being nasty and unfair to Aaron, who never claimed clairvoyance. He claimed INFERENCE. He inferred, “apparently” in his own words, from what you said to what this might mean. That happens to be a legitimate act in rhetoric. People who make statements have to be aware that others will draw inferences from them.

      Also, Aaron is right. The problem is that this discussion is being conducted in English, in which “secular” and “religious” have meanings that don’t carry over to Israel. In the US, a Reform Jew who goes every week to the synagogue would certainly self-classify as “religious” and so would the society classify such Jews. In Israel, such persons would be classified as “secular” and, by many haredi fanatics, not even Jews.

      I’m pretty sure Ami is right, too, to be alarmed (as he APPEARS to be) about the trend. But I don’t think a self-selecting poll like this one is the best way to go about defining it.

      What I would want to study is the sector of the population defined as “secular” in order to see how that part of the population has changed, if the self-definition of “secular” has changed to become more or less “religious.”

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    46. @aristeides – You bet I’m being nasty to Aaron, since he deserves it. Anyone who puts words in my mouth will get that. If I say Israel is turning into a theocracy, it doesn’t mean I’m a racist or loath Haredim, as Aaron suggested. There’s no reason for anyone to conclude that. And if you’re suggesting it, too – you should be careful yourself on my channel. In the mood for some “nasty” treatment, Aristeides?

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    47. aristeides

      This comment has been deleted

      @Aristeides – I don’t approve of your line of commenting. Stop preaching that freedom of speech is also allowing people to call me racist.

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    48. Tom Bishop

      Gideon Levy has a good column about this in Haaretz.

      “God rules all in 2012 Israel, even the state
      Israel: Not what you thought, not what the world thought, not what Israelis imagine themselves to think. Israeli society isn’t secular, it isn’t liberal and it isn’t enlightened.” at:


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