Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
'Egalitarian' prayer platform sitting on top of archaeological discoveries at Robinson' Arch

The Noam party (their slogan is Normal Nation on our Land) has a clear anti-homosexual/pro-family agenda, as well as a belief in restoring traditional Jewish values to Israeli state institutions, including the Education Ministry and the IDF. It has one MK, former director-general of the Interior, and the Housing ministries Avigdor Maoz. On Friday, using the services of Ma’agar Mochot, a reputable research institute that utilizes the telephone, mail, and internet, Noam published a public opinion survey of the attitudes of Israelis regarding the Kotel framework, the plan hatched by the Netanyahu government in 2016 and suspended over Haredi pushback in 2017, to divide the Western Wall plaza into three equal sections: Women, Men, and “Egalitarian,” meaning Mixed.

The survey included 500 Jewish respondents age 18 and over and was conducted between October 19 and 22 through an existing Ma’agar Mochot internet panel. This means that the survey doesn’t include the views of some 21% of Israelis who are not Jewish. It is also about three weeks old.

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Still, the survey questions are intriguing and offer an opportunity for the rest of us to compare our own values to those of the respondents.

Regarding the Kotel framework, which the Lapid-Bennett government is about to debate as they promised to do once the 2021-22 budget is passed (it was). The first question was: would the application of the Kotel framework by Naftali Bennett strengthen unity or increase the rifts in the Jewish nation?

25% said it would increase Jewish unity, 52% said it would increase the rifts, and 23% didn’t know.

The survey authors then cast aside the “don’t know” respondents and announced that out of those who do know, 32% believe the Kotel framework would enhance unity, but 68% believe it would cause more rifts.

But that’s not the only way to massage these numbers. We can also say that, counting the respondents who believe the framework would enhance unity together with the “don’t know” respondents, 48% of Israeli Jews don’t think the Kotel framework would increase rifts.

The 500 online respondents were also asked if Israel should be the “national state of the Jewish people” or the “state of all its citizens,” and 67% said it should be the state of the Jewish people. 21% said, “state of all its citizens,” and 12% didn’t know. Eliminating the “don’t know” votes, among those who know, 76% believe Israel should be the state of its Jewish citizens, compared with 24% who believed it should belong to all of its citizens.

However, if we consider the likely vote of 21% of Israelis who are not Jews, combined with the 21% who want a state of all its citizens, and those who don’t know, the outcome is about even.

MK Maoz responded to his party’s survey saying, “The people of Israel want a Jewish state, want one Kotel and want unity among the people and not strife and division. The survey clearly shows that this government has no mandate from either the people or their own electorate for moves to harm the Western Wall and the Jewish identity of the state. This government has no legitimacy for any move that would harm the unity of the people. I call on them to see what the people of Israel want and stop harming the State of Israel.”

So, for the record, I fully agree with MK Maoz’s view regarding Israel being a Jewish state. But I would like to see a much more elaborate assessment of just how many Israeli citizens are Reform Jews. I suspect they are far fewer than the Israeli Reform movement suggests, and I know that they don’t frequent the Kotel all that much, at least not for mixed prayers at the platform that was designated to them.

There are some hard numbers about the Reform in Israel, and they’re quite low. A survey by the Jewish People’s Policy Institute from 2018, which relied, among other things, on a broad survey conducted by Prof. Camil Fuchs, found that 12-13% of all Jews in Israel (approximately 800,000 men and women) identify as Reform or Conservative. However, according to the same report, most of them also identify as secular or traditional, and often do not see themselves as religious at all, meaning that by calling themselves “Reform” they actually mean “non-Orthodox.”

According to the Reform Movement, about 5,000 families and individuals are registered in the 50 active Reform communities in Israel, which comes to about 10,000 people. The movement claims that more than 120,000 Israelis participate in its religious ceremonies and events each year – which probably means Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. But that does not a member make.

Finally, as I’ve repeated ad nauseam about the Women of the Wall, they and the Reform receive much of their energy from the vociferous objections of mostly Haredi politicians. If the WOW were left alone to do their silly Rosh Chodesh ceremony at 7 AM in the Women’s section of the Kotel, they would have lost their fundraising power years ago, and no one would join them. Same with the Israeli Reform movement – it capitalizes on the secular Israelis’ disdain for their Judaism, but if they were ignored, those secular Israelis would not be interested in the Church-like Reform prayers.

The Reform and the WOW are not a threat – unless we make them so.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.