State and Religion in Israel – A statistical view

By its nature Israel is defined as a “Jewish State”, which points to a strong religious element in the makeup of the country. Ultra-Orthodox Jewish religious parties had been part of most of Israel’s parliamentary coalitions that ruled the country in recent history. For that reason, Ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties influenced Israeli laws in  much larger way than their actual size.

Naturally, religious parties would like to see the state laws aligned with the religious laws, something that is resisted by the majority of the liberal and secular Jewish-Israeli population.

Civil laws with strong religious flavor are a constant point of contention between secular and Ultra-Orthodox religious Jews in Israel. It came to a head in the past year, when a rare Israeli government without representation of Ultra-Orthodox parties, was able to pass a law that requires Ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students to serve in the army, something that they were exempt from since the creation of the state in 1948.

A survey in YNET on September 23, 2014, the eve of the new Jewish year, provides some answers on how Israelis feel about religious influence on their daily life.

(Click on charts to enlarge)

Separation of State


satisfaction with policies

Belonging to the Jewish faith is an advantage in Israel, where a concentrated effort is made to help Jews to immigrate and settle in the country. Historically, orthodox Jewish parties were in-charge of the Interior Ministry. The Interior Ministry issues Israeli identification cards, where the religion of each person in registered.

While the majority of conversions to Judaism in Israel are performed according to the orthodox tradition, in the US, most conversions to Judaism are performed according to the Reform and Conservative traditions. It can become a problem when Jewish people from the US, who were converted to Judaism by a reform or a conservative rabbi, immigrate to Israel and their conversion is questioned. This can affect their status and eligibility for benefits reserved to Jewish people.

It is also a problem for Israel, which depends on the support the American Jewish communities, including the support of Reform and the Conservative communities. Questioning or rejecting Reform and Conservative conversions creates friction and erode the American Jewry support for Israel.

Conversion attitude

With the strong influence of the orthodox religious parties, restrictions were imposed on public transportation on Shabbat. Kosher certification of restaurants in Israel in done by orthodox rabbis, who use it to ensure that restaurants are closed on Shabbat. The majority of the secular Israelis learned to live with these restrictions, Some support it in order to ensure the Jewish nature of the state, other object to it and demand to remove the restrictions.

Shadbat attitude


Related Article: The Gatekeeper of the Israeli Democracy