The Divided People Revisited

Eva Etzioni-Halevy

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The Jewish part of Israeli society (comprising about 80% of its population) is deeplydivided between religious and non-religious–or secular–Jews, the gap betweenthem is widening and the common denominator is diminishing or phasing out. Thiswas the thesis I presented and supported with data some fifteen years ago, in mybookThe Divided People.1Since then several years have passed, and it may be asked whether, in the lightof new developments in Israeli society, this thesis is still valid. In this article I arguethat the first part of the thesis is still valid: the division between the two camps isstill deep and highly significant. On the other hand, the evidence no longer sup-ports the second part of the thesis, namely that the gap between the sectors is wid-ening and the common denominator is thinning.Also, I argue that there are some mechanisms that enhance the division be-tween the camps, while others work for mutual integration. Both have beenstrengthening over the years, thus balancing each other, and creating a situation inwhich recently there has been no clear trend either way. We perceive what may betermed the paradox of stabilizing dynamics: paradoxically, dynamic, changingmechanisms create a stable balance in the cleavage between the secular and the re-ligious Jews in Israel.
This paper was completed in January 2015.I would like to express my gratitude to Prof. Ephraim Yaar and to Prof. Tamar Hermann of the TamiSteinmetz Peace Research Center, for adding some questions on Israeli and Jewish identity to two oftheir surveys–one in 1996 and one in 2014–at my request, and furnishing me with the results ofthose surveys, as detailed below. I am also deeply grateful to Prof. Rina Shapira and to Dr. ZviHalevy for their most valuable comments.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationHandbook of Israel
Subtitle of host publicationMajor Debates
EditorsEliezer Ben-Rafael, Julius H. Schoeps, Yitzhak Sternberg, Olaf Glöckner
PublisherDe Gruyter Oldenbourg
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-11-038338-6
ISBN (Print)978-3-11-035160-6
StatePublished - 2016


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