Israeli Unity Through Education?


As a way to bridge the disunity that nearly half of Israelis view as a significant social issue in the Jewish state, 78 percent of Israelis said they would support national educational efforts to introduce religious students to their secular counterparts.

That was the finding of a recent survey of Israelis conducted by Gesher, an Israeli organization dedicated to bridging the gaps between different segments of Israeli society, and funded by UJA-Federation of New York.

“This index is an important indicator that we have a great deal to accomplish in building a better society, but that there is also considerable cause for optimism,” said Ilan Gael Dor, Gesher’s executive director. “Most fundamentally it reveals that there is a high level of misunderstanding of the other, and if [that is] overcome, then we can enhance unity within our society.”

He cited the fact that 53 percent of charedim said they have little to no regular interaction with people of other segments of society.

Although 46 percent of Israelis said they thought about the issue of disunity in Israeli society on a regular basis, the survey found a clear correlation between concern over disunity and religious observance. Most secular and traditional Jews (53 percent) expressed such concerns, while only 40 percent of religious and 27 percent of charedi Jews shared that sentiment.

Known as the Israel Unity Index, the survey was based upon Internet and phone interviews with 511 Israelis from all sectors of society.

The survey also found that while only 13 percent of Israelis felt that the nation is likely to have greater communal unity within the next five years, a full 81 percent agreed with the statement, “I fully respect Jews from all aspects of society, even when I don’t agree with them.”

In addition, it found that the most unifying factor among Israelis is war or tragedy — an overwhelming 80 percent answered yes when asked about the impact of negative news on unity.

The Unity Index was initiated as part of Unity Day commemorations created to memorialize the murders last summer of three Israeli teenagers — Eyal Ifrach, Naftali Fraenkel and Gil-ad Shaer — by Palestinian terrorists.