The Far-Reaching Impact of Israel’s Religion and State Conflict

Though many think that the Israeli government’s involvement in religious life is limited to the synagogue, the religion and state conflict has a far-reaching influence on the fabric of daily life for all Israelis. This is clearly seen in the battle waged in recent years over the elimination of women from advertisements and pictures, as well as physically excluding them from public areas. This tension additionally is played out over the debate of public transportation and availability of shopping and services on Shabbat.

60% of Israelis support the Attorney General’s proposal to criminalize publicly excluding women publicly. This is a slight decrease in support from 2012, when support was at 64%. It could be due to the fact that the issue was taken off the Knesset’s agenda in the past year. 75% of Secular Israelis, 77% of immigrants, and 63% of the non-Haredi population support the criminalization of publicly excluding women. 73% of college graduates, but only 44% of those with high school diplomas and below support the Attorney General’s proposal. The Labor Party had the highest level of support for criminalization (89%) followed by the centrist and left-wing parties (Meretz, Hatnuah, and Kadima) with 73%.

Proposals for compromises between religious and secular Israelis regarding Shabbat usually include closing shopping centers outside of cities and allowing small grocery and convenience stores to remain open. Surprisingly, the support has become higher for allowing shopping centers outside of cities to remain open. Two-thirds of Israeli Jews (67%) support business hours on Shabbat for shopping centers located outside of cities. 94% of secular Israelis and 31% of Modern Orthodox Israelis also support this.

On the other hand, 100% of ultra-Orthodox Israelis oppose the Shabbat business hours. Despite Labor Party head Shelly Yachimovich’s opposition to business hours on Shabbat, 91% of Labor party voters are in support. The same goes for 50% of Habayit Hayehudi voters. 59% of Israeli Jews support business hours on Shabbat for convenience stores and small grocery stores located inside cities and 41% are opposed to it. Only 19% of Modern Orthodox Israelis are in support and 31% of them support shopping centers located outside of cities remaining open on Shabbat.

Around Israel, support ranges from 57% (Tel Aviv metro area) to 66% (Sharon coastal plain- between Tel Aviv and Haifa). In Jerusalem and surrounding areas, 61% oppose Shabbat business hours and only 39% are in favor. Despite the opposition, there are dozens of convenience stores and small grocery stores open on Shabbat in Jerusalem. Of all political affiliations, Labor Party voters (88%) are the most supportive of Shabbat business hours for convenience stores inside cities.

64% of Israeli Jews (close to two-thirds) and 71% of non-Haredi Israelis support public transportation on Shabbat in full or partial function. This is a consistent result from the last three indices. Of those supporters, 41% support partial frequency (running central bus routes at a lower frequency or use of shuttles) and 23% support fully functioning public transportation on Shabbat. 36% oppose expanding public transportation on Shabbat and of them, 21% are in support of continuing the status quo (almost no public transportation) and 15% favor cancelling the existing routes on Shabbat. 91% of secular Israelis, 88% of immigrants, and 32% of Modern Orthodox Israelis support expanding public transportation on Shabbat. 92% of ultra-Orthodox Israelis oppose the expansion.

Support for public transportation on Shabbat is also divided by geographic location. 73% of residents in the Sharon coastal plain and in the south of the country, 69% of residents in Haifa and in the north of the country and 60% of Tel Aviv metro area residents support public transportation on Shabbat. The Jerusalem metro area is the only location that had a majority (54%) of respondents who oppose public transportation on Shabbat. 93% of Yesh Atid voters, 89% of Labor Party voters, and 68% of Likud Beitenu voters support public transportation on Shabbat. 55% of Habayit Hayehudi and 95% of those who voted for ultra-Orthodox parties are opposed to public transportation on Shabbat.