Press Release

Inaugural Biennial Statistical Report on Religion and State in Israel

IDI’s inaugural Biennial Statistical Report on Religion and State was published ahead of the annual conference organized by the Religion and State Program in the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Center for Shared Society.

Compiled based on existing data, detailed surveys and research conducted “in the field,” The Statistical Report on Religion and State, provides a vast base of knowledge on the contentious topic at the core of this issue including: marriage and divorce, conversion, burial and public Shabbat observance.

The editors of the Report, Ariel Finkelstein, Ayala Goldberg and Shlomit Ravitsky Tur-Paz, note that, "The Statistical Report reveals the immense gaps between the laws and regulations regulating the balance of religion in Israel as they are written, and the reality actually taking place on the ground in Israeli cities and towns. The Report’s chapter on Shabbat finds that while there are both national and local laws limiting public certain activities on Saturdays, actions on the ground are dictating reality. Today, most cultural institutions are open on Shabbat, even in Jerusalem with its large religious population. In the central region, a de-facto public transportation system runs uninterrupted every weekend. Throughout the country, enforcement is uniformly lax and continues to decrease with each passing year. Currently, data is sorely lacking. It is our hope that this report will enable basing policy decisions on fact rather than feeling and affiliation. "

In addition to the newly inaugurated Statistical Report, a special survey was conducted by IDI’s Viterbi Family Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research among Jewish Israelis ahead of the annual Religion and State Conference.

Select Survey Finding

Who is a Jew? – 70% of Jewish Israelis do not accept patrilineal descent and therefore do not consider those born to a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother to be Jewish. 26% of the survey respondents say they do accept patrilineal descent and 4% say that they don’t know. The segmentation of the data according to religious definition shows that the more secular the public, the more it sees the children of a Jewish father as Jews, yet there is a small majority (50% compared to 44%) among this group who do not accept patrilineal descent.

Conversion - Jewish public towards non-Orthodox conversion is ambivalent: 44% of Jews do not see those who converted in this way as Jews, 40% see them as Jews, while 16% do not know.

Segmentation by religious self-definition shows that among the secular Jews there is a clear majority (67% versus 18%) who consider non-Orthodox converts to be Jews, while among the other religious groups there is a majority for those who do not consider them Jews (among the non-religious traditional public there is only a small majority). Among the traditional non-religious public, 36% consider non-Orthodox converts to be Jews, among the traditional religious public, 17% consider these converts to be Jews, among the religious-nationalist public, 5% consider these converts to be Jews, and among the ultra-Orthodox public, only 2% consider these converts to be non-Jews.

Additionally, a significant majority among the Jewish public – not including the ultra-Orthodox – fully trusts the Orthodox conversion carried out by the IDF. 69% of the Jewish public consider these converts to be Jewish, only 16% believe that they are not Jewish and 16% answered that they do not know. Among the ultra-Orthodox only 6% recognize the conversions carried out in the IDF.

Trust in Religious Institutions

Jewish Israelis have the highest levels trust in two local institutions: 45% trust the Hevra Kadisha Burial Society and 38% the local municipal rabbis. On the other hand, only 28% trust the Religious Councils and 24% trust the Ministry of Religious Services – which ranks the lowest. Trust in the Chief Rabbinate and the Rabbinic Courts is higher than trust in the Religious Councils and the Ministry of Religious Services, but lower than trust in the Hevra Kadisha and the rabbis of local authorities. 34% trust the Chief Rabbinate, 32.5% trust the Rabbinical Courts, 28% trust the Religious Councils and 14% trust the Ministry of Religious Services.

Overall the National Religious public has very high trust in all national religious institutions, while the secular public has very low trust in national religious institutions. The traditional public is in the middle: the traditional-religious public is closer to the religious public, while the non-religious traditional public is closer to the secular public. Among the ultra-Orthodox there are high variances in levels of trust between the various institutions. 67% trust the Rabbinical Courts, 47% the Chief Rabbinate and only 23% the Ministry of Religious Services.

Compared to these figures, the trust of the Arab public in its religious courts is notable as it is twice as high as the trust of the Jewish public in the rabbinical courts (64%). In general, trust among Arab Israelis for their religious institutions is much higher than the trust of Jewish Israelis in their religious institutions.


65% of the Jewish public prefer religious burial, 12% civil burial and 5% prefer cremation. About a fifth (19%) did not know how to answer the question.

The survey found that the only public that can see diversity in its response to this issue is the secular public, among which a third preferred religious burial, about a quarter (24%) civil burial, 10% cremation, and a high percentage of another third did not know or had no preference.

70% of Jewish Israelis Don’t Accept Patrilineal Descent; Jewish Israelis are split on non-Orthodox Conversion: 40% accept it, 44% don’t

Trust in Religious Institutions: Only about a quarter of Jews express trust in the Ministry of Religious Services; 45% of Jews trust the Hevra Kadisha Burial Society

Family Courts versus Rabbinic Courts: The Jewish public's trust in the family courts is slightly higher than the trust in the rabbinical courts - 38% compared to 32.5%

Highlights of the Statistical Report – Chapter on Shabbat

Public Transportation on Shabbat

Among the 2,913 active bus lines in Israel, 284 (10%) operate on Saturday. These are divided into 210 lines (7%) that operate frequently throughout Shabbat, and 74 lines (3%) that operate only shortly after Shabbat begins or shortly before Shabbat ends.

13% of the runs of lines that operate on Shabbat pass through Jewish municipalities. The majority of bus activity on Shabbat is in Arab or mixed cities: 37% of runs are in Arab municipalities and 42% in mixed cities. 67% of the buses’ activity in mixed cities is in East Jerusalem, and the rest are mainly in Haifa and Nof Hagalil (13% and 12% respectively).

Commerce and Culture on Shabbat

98% of cinemas, 82% of established museums, 52% of cultural centers and theaters and 26% of shopping malls operate on Shabbat. In real numbers, this means that 42 cinemas, 45 museums, 46 cultural centers and theaters and 62 malls and shopping centers, operate on Shabbat. This data is based on the findings of IDI researchers conducted in the field during the last months of April-June.

A comparison with data from 2015 reveals that there has been an increase in the past seven years in the scope of cultural and commercial activity open on Shabbat. The proportion of museums operating on Shabbat increased from 65% in 2015 to 82% in 2022 while the percentage of cultural centers and theaters operating on Shabbat increased from 46% to 52% in this same time period. There was always an increase in the percentage of malls and shopping centers operating on Shabbat - from 20% in 2015 to 26% in 2022. The percentage of cinemas open on the sabbath remained stagnant during this time period.

Shabbat, Permits and Prohibitions in the Local Authorities – Legal Status

As of 2022, among 255 (114 Jewish and 33 Arab) local authorities in Israel, 147 authorities (58%) have a by-law pertaining to the day of rest.

Most of the Jewish authorities allow the sale of food on Shabbat: 74% allow this to occur under certain conditions (such as limiting the activity of selling food to certain hours), 7% allow completely, 4% of the authorities allow obtaining a unique permit for the sale of food. In another 15% of the authorities there is a complete ban on the sale of food on the authority's premises.

On the other hand, regarding commerce, most of the municipal by-laws completely forbid it. 89% of the Jewish authorities completely forbid the opening of commercial businesses on Shabbat and 9% forbid it while giving an opening for the granting of a unique permit, and 3% of the Jewish authorities allow commercial business activity in their field on Shabbat.

As for the cultural sector, 70% of the Jewish authorities forbid the opening of cultural institutions entirely, and another 5% forbid it while granting a limited unique permit. On the other hand, 19% of the Jewish authorities allow the opening of cultural institutions in general and another 5% allow this, usually when it is a free activity.

Employment - Permits and supervision on Shabbat

As of June 2022, there are 467 employers who have a permit to employ workers on the weekly day of rest. A combination of all these permits shows that they include a permit for employment on the weekly day of rest to 22,345 people: 19,828 workers and 2,517 drivers.

There is a noticeable decrease over the years in the administrative enforcement carried out by the Ministry of Economy and Industry for working on the sabbath without a permit. For example, in 2018, 360 files were opened pertaining to a violation of Shabbat-related laws, while in 2021 this number dropped to just 89 instances. In these years there was also a drastic decrease in other sanctions, warnings (from 168 to 41 respectively) and financial sanctions (from 12 to only 2).

The total amount of sanctions imposed for employing workers on the weekly day of rest without a permit or contrary to a permit during the years 2013-2021 is 15 million NIS, and the average for the year is 1.66 million NIS.

98% of Movie Theaters, 82% of Museums and 26% of Malls and Shopping Centers Operate on Shabbat

Public Transportation: 10% of Bus Lines run on Shabbat

* Data from the Biennial Statistical Report on Religion and State are based on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, ministries and government authorities.

** Data from the survey was analyzed with the assistance of the Viterbi Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research of the Israel Democracy Institute. In the survey, which was conducted on the internet and by telephone (supplements of groups that are not sufficiently represented on the network) in August 2022, 1016 men and women were interviewed in Hebrew and 214 in Arabic, constituting a representative national sample of the entire adult population of Israel aged 18 and older. The maximum sampling error for the entire sample was ±2.85%. The fieldwork was done by the Midgam Institute, Ipanel and Afkar Research.