SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — American Jewish attachment to Israel is holding steady, a new study shows.
The connection is true despite recent controversies such as the Gaza flotilla incident, and it is true among younger Jews as well as older respondents, the study found.
“Still Connected: American Jewish Attitudes About Israel,” published in August by the Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, was based on a survey of 1,200 self-identified Jewish Americans. The interviews were conducted in June.
The study was done in response to media suggestions that the flotilla incident, the continued Israeli maritime blockade of Gaza and ongoing settlement activity was alienating younger American Jews from Israel. This was the thesis of a May essay by Peter Beinart in the New York Review of Books.
By contrast, the study found that 63 percent of respondents feel connected to Israel, and 75 percent say that caring about Israel is a significant part of their Jewish identity.
Younger Jews were more likely to say Israel forms an important part of their Jewish identity than that they feel connected to Israel, but researchers say those age-related distinctions have been found in similar studies over the past 24 years.
No correlation was found between political views and the strength of respondents’ attachment to Israel.
What does affect younger Jews’ relationship to Israel is direct experience with the country, the study confirmed.
Not only were young adults who participated in a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip more likely to say they felt “very connected” to Israel, but those who had visited Israel in any capacity expressed the same views.
Further, the study reported, last May’s Gaza flotilla incident did not significantly impact young Jews’ attachment to Israel. The finding came from data collected from the same Birthright participants in 2009 and again in June this year.