Jews. The Discord of the Four Brothers
They celebrated Passover together, but then they went their separate ways again. The four subgroups of the Jews of Israel analyzed for the first time in depth by the Pew Research Center in Washington.
by Sandro Magister
ROME, May 2, 2016 – Over the past eight days, Jews all over the world have celebrated Pesach, the Passover, which began on the evening of Friday, April 22 with the ritual supper called Seder.
The unfolding and significance of the Jewish Passover celebrations were explained in detail one year ago in “L'Osservatore Romano” by the Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See at the time, Zion Evrony:
> Pasqua ebraica, "la notte diversa da tutte le notti"
And this is a distinctive sign of Jewishness from which almost no one distances himself, not even the few Jews who call themselves atheists. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center in Washington, conducted among the citizens of Israel, revealed that participation at the Seder supper is 100 percent among the Haredim, commonly called the “ultra-Orthodox,” 97 percent among the Masortim, the “traditional,” and even 87 percent among the “Hilonim,” the “secular,” 40 percent of whom are atheists, who all year long neither pray nor go to the synagogue nor observe the Sabbath rest, although most of them, 83 percent, fast on the day of Yom Kippur.
The Pesach Seder and Yom Kippur are the two observances that unite all Jews, for reasons of tradition and culture if not of religion. But in everything else the differences among the various forms of Judaism are numerous and profound, as the survey by the Pew Research Center has brought to light, extending it also to the other religious groups living in Israel, Muslims, Druze, and Christians.
> Israel’s Religiously Divided Society
They are differences that touch upon both the highest principles and everyday life. A secular Jew, for example, gets shivers at the thought that his daughter might marry an ultra-Orthodox, and vice-versa. He would prefer that she marry a Christian, in spite of the fact that interreligious marriages are not even allowed in Israel, but only legally recognized if they are celebrated abroad.
As for the distinction between religion and politics, the secular do not want to hear about the Jewish law, Halakha, overshadowing democratic principles. While the ultra-Orthodox would like to see exactly that, and together with them two thirds of the Datiim, the religious.
But in spite of that, all of them without distinction profess the Jewish religion, even those who do not practice it or even believe in God. In Israel, almost no one defines himself without religion, even if the secular consider themselves Israelis first and Jews second, while the reverse is true of the Haredim and Datiim, Jews first and Israelis only subordinately.
Ashkenazi and Sephardi, the two great historical-geographical divisions of Jews in the world, are categories that overlap the four groups surveyed. The former predominate to only a small extent among the secular, and the latter among the Orthodox.
Three fourths of the Jews living in Israel today were born there, while only one fourth have come from abroad. But all agree in insisting on the right of every Jew to emigrate to Israel and immediately become a citizen. Nine out of ten - the skeptics are only among the ultra-Orthodox - see as necessary the existence of a Jewish state to guarantee the survival of the people of Israel, all the more so in that in the judgment of three fourths of Israeli Jews anti-Semitism endures and is even growing in the world.
But the divisions are becoming vertical in the face of the dilemma between Jewish law and democracy.
The ultra-Orthodox, almost in their totality, would like Halakha to have the primacy, and its precepts to have the value of law. While the secular want exactly the opposite. Also among the Datiim, the religious, 69 percent boost for Halakha, while among the Masortim, the traditional, 57 percent opt for democracy.
Getting down to the practical, the Haredim and the Datiim would like to block the circulation of public transportation on the Sabbath, the opposite of the Hilonim. And similar results are seen with the separation between men and women on public transportation, with the ultra-Orthodox in favor and the secular against.
With regard to marriage, which in Israel can be celebrated only in front of an Orthodox rabbi, the Haredim are intransigent in defending this discipline, while the secular would like to change the law to allow Reform and Conservative rabbis as well to preside over the ceremony.
Over the spectrum of political positions, the Datiim are those who align themselves more on the right and the Hilonim more on the center-left, while among the Haredim the prevailing alignment is in the center. Among the ultra-Orthodox there were also those who opposed the creation of a Jewish state before the coming of the Messiah. And there were those who fought against the settlements in the West Bank and supported the transfer of land to the Palestinians in exchange for peace.
Likud, the center-right party of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fishes for its voters primarily among the Masortim and Hilonim. While the Datiim are divided between two parties allied with Likud: Habayit Hayehudi, which supports the settlements, and Shas, which looks after the interests of the Sephardi.
In any case, the four groups examined in the survey live apart. Nine out of ten among the Haredim and Hilonim say they have their circle of friends only within their own group. And the same is true of their marriages.
The survey by the Pew Research Center also gathered a lot of data about the religious minorities and their relations with Jews in Israel.
Mutual trust between Jews and Muslims turns out to be very low. 72 percent of Arabs living in Israel and 88 percent of Jews see as insincere the efforts for peace among their respective Israeli and Palestinian counterparts.
As for the solution of an independent Palestinian state side-by-side with the State of Israel, this is seen as a possibility by 43 percent of Jews and 50 percent of Arabs in Israel.
But among the Jews the most skeptical on the two-state solution are the Haredim and the Datiim. While among the Arabs trust in such a solution is in a downward spiral. Because it is true that this is at 50 percent today, but only three years ago, in 2013, it was at 80.