On January 29, 2012, the Israel Democracy Institute and AVI CHAI released the findings of the third Guttman-AVI CHAI report—A Portrait of Israeli Jews: Beliefs, Observance, and Values of Israeli Jews, 2009. Based on a survey conducted by IDI's Guttman Center for Surveys for the AVI CHAI Foundation in 2009, this report is a sequel to two earlier studies conducted in 1991 and 1999. Taken together, the three surveys present a unique continuum of Jewish religiosity and identity in Israel. The research team was lead by IDI's Prof. Arian (z"l) and the data analysis was conducted by Ayala Keissar-Sugarmen, who wrote the report.
From 1991 to 1999, there was a decline in attachment to Jewish tradition and religion. From 1999 to 2009, by contrast, there was an increase in this attachment, which returned to and in some aspects even surpassed the level measured in 1991. One example of this is the observance of religious tradition: in 1991, 24% of the respondents stated that they “observe religious tradition to a great extent”; in 1999 only 19% did so; in 2009, 26% did.
The decline in attachment to Jewish tradition in 1999 was interpreted then as a result of the mass immigration from the former Soviet Union. The reversal of the trend between 1999 and 2009 may be evidence that the immigrants from the former Soviet Union have been assimilated into Israeli society and adopted Jewish customs and traditions; it may also reflect an increase in the demographic weight of the Orthodox and Ultraorthodox in the Jewish population. However, it is important to note that while the Orthodox and Ultraorthodox state that they observe religious precepts more stringently than they did in the past and are more strongly attached to tradition, those who defined themselves as “secular but not anti-religious” and “secular and anti-religious” did not report that they were more observant than previously. The statistical data reveal a strong correlation between self-defined religiosity and observance of tradition; nevertheless, Israeli Jews who define themselves as secular but not anti-religious, and even as secular and anti-religious, do observe some traditions. Israeli Jews are fiercely loyal to Jewish rites of passage, but less scrupulous about keeping kosher (76%), not eating hametz on Passover (67%), fasting on Yom Kippur (68%), lighting Sabbath candles (66%) and making Kiddush on Friday night (60%).
Two main trends are evident over the years (1991, 1999, and 2009). With regard to fundamental matters of religious belief, such as the notion that a higher power directs the world, there was a slight increase. With regard to specifically Jewish tenets, though, such as the coming of Messiah, there was a decline in the percentage of believers in 1999 as compared to 1991; but this decline was "corrected" in 2009, when the figure returned to the 1991 level.
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