Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Shevat 5763 - January 15, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
The Underlying Trend

A huge poll run by Teleseker that asked a sample of 10,000 Jewish adults over the age of 18 (about ten times as many as are asked in a typical weekly political poll) found that 28.3 percent of the youth agedb 1` 18-21 (as opposed to 21.7 percent of the general population) believe that even entertainment businesses should be closed on Shabbat. Some 50.8 percent of them (compared to 41.7 in the general public) observe the kashrus laws concerning meat and dairy products. Almost two thirds (62.1 percent) -- compared to 51.2 percent of the general population -- say they "always" fast on Yom Kippur.

The survey found that 37 percent of those aged 18-21 agreed with the sentence, "Whenever I go into a room, it's my custom to kiss the mezuzah." Overall in the general population, only 21.9 percent do this. Perhaps most encouraging is that only 30.6 percent of the youth (as opposed to 41.2 percent of the adults) said: "Israel should be more open to Western culture." And 39.8 percent of the youth believe that Israel today is too influenced by American culture.

These figures are refreshing these days when we hear so much about the rise of the chareidi-hating Shinui party. Even as thousands flock to support the Shinui party that has no claim to fame other than its uncompromising opposition to chareidim and anything that might benefit chareidim, the youth of Israel are becoming closer to Jewish tradition than their elders, and many are clinging to visible symbols of the Jewish tradition, even though they may not stick to other things that are in reality far more important. As disturbing as the rise of such a party may be, it apparently represents only a consolidation of all the chareidi-haters, who were up until now spread out in Meretz and the Labor party as well as Shinui, into one party whose main theme is hatred, without the social and ideological "distractions" that are part of Meretz and Labor, both of which have a leftist program.

In fact, these numbers probably do not represent a wave of "return" to Judaism. It is not that Jews from secular backgrounds are becoming religious, but rather the numbers reflect the general demographic trends which are now becoming more evident.

The religious community is simply having more children than the rest of the Israeli Jewish community, and this is showing up in these surveys. Chareidi and national religious families have close to five children per family (kein yirbu) while the overall rate is less than three children per family. Though religious Jews are still a minority in Israel (between a quarter and a third of the overall population) their children are certainly a much larger proportion of the total number of children. The numbers in the survey are certainly consistent with the known demographic facts.

We are always hoping to see a dramatic change in the attitudes and beliefs of the Jewish population of Israel, as they recognize the truth of our Jewish traditions. If this does not happen soon, we can still expect that, despite the incessant anti-religious propaganda of the media, the community will gradually become closer to tradition as the established demographic trends assert themselves.

Veheishiv leiv ovos al bonim, veleiv bonim al avosom (Malachi 3:24).

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