Jewish Israelis are deeply divided societally, religiously and politically, and are to a large extent tightly stratified within their particular societal sector a new report by the Pew Research Center has shown.
The survey showed that there is very little inter-marriage between haredi, religious-Zionist, traditional and secular Jews, and little societal interaction between the different sectors as well.
The deep division in Israeli society was highlighted by findings that show that Israeli Jews in general are about as uncomfortable for their children to marry a Muslim as secular Jews are for their child to marry a haredi person and vice versa.
-by Jeremy Sharon | March 8, 2016
“Pew poll: 48 percent of Israeli Jews support transfer or expulsion of Arab Israelis”
The Jerusalem Post
I came across this news article in my Facebook feed, and it reminded me of my recent blog post Attached and Yet Unattached which mentions a group of Messianic Jews in Israel who desire to become an integral part of normative (Orthodox) Jewish synagogue life.
The article and Pew poll highlights just how isolated the different parts of Jewish society in Israel are.
Secular Israelis comprise the largest sector, totalling 40% of Israel’s total, population, traditional Israelis are 23%, religious-Zionists 10%, and haredim were 8%, while 14% of the population is Muslim, 2% Christian, and 2% Druze. In total, the Israeli population is 81% Jewish, 19% non-Jewish.
According to the study, 95% of Haredi Jews and 93% of secular Jews have a spouse from the same subgroup, while 85% of religious-Zionist Jews have religious-Zionist spouse.
Traditional Israelis were the only sector to have a somewhat higher rate of intermarriage with other Jewish groups, with approximately 33% of traditional Israelis marrying a religious-Zionist or secular Jew, and 64% of this group marrying within their sector.
In other words, Jews tend to stay socially within their own particular population and rarely have friends or marry outside their groups.
Messianic Judaism isn’t mentioned as a Jewish population group in the article, but I did wonder about that 2% Christian group. Of course, there are normative, non-Jewish Christians in Israel, but, from any other Jewish groups’ perspective, would Jews who are known to be “Messianic” be considered Christian?
My guess is “yes,” and if so, I’m sure that causes dismay among those Messianic Jews to no end.
Which brings us back to the idea of Messianic Jews integrating into Orthodox synagogues and communities as an effort to become living examples to wider Jewish community in Israel (and any place else) that they are us, not them.
But the Jerusalem Post article, if it is at all accurate in representing Israeli Jewish society as it truly is, indicates that this is easier said than done.
Of course, even though these sub-groups of Jewish Israel differ widely from one another and barely associate with one another, on some level, they consider each other Jewish…I think.
It’s difficult for me to tell as an outsider not only to Judaism but to life in Israel.
But I do know that Israel’s Chief Rabbis and the Rabbi of the Kotel oppose any government decision to formally recognize Reform Judaism, so it’s possible that Orthodox Jews in the Land (and elsewhere) may not consider Reform Jews as Jews, or at least consider them on the same plane as secular Jews.
And all this might be what’s fueling some Messianic Jewish groups in Israel to breach social barriers, so to speak, by associating and folding into Orthodox Jewish community, to be “us,” not “them.”
I wonder how (or if) that’s going to work. On the one hand, if these Messianic Jews are “undercover” and do not reveal their devotion to Rav Yeshua (Jesus Christ) and their revelation of him as Messiah, and assuming they are observant to the same degree and manner as the communities they join, then they will likely succeed in becoming part of larger religious Judaism.
On the other hand, they will not have a regular relationship with a community that recognizes our Rav and acknowledges the revelation of Yeshua returning as King Messiah to fulfill all of Hashem’s promises to Israel.
When I made the decision (which I’ve done a few times over the past several years) to live without community, I received many kind emails and other communications telling me that it was a risky business standing apart from a Yeshua-believing congregation.
I know after leaving Hebrew Roots some years ago, my “plan A” was to attend Chabad services and/or classes with my Jewish wife.
However, she wasn’t anxious to include her Christian husband in her Jewish religious and social life, and ultimately, that plan went down in flames.
My “plan B,” after much consideration, was to do a sort of Tent of David integration into a small, local Baptist church, even after being warned by a good friend of mine that the effort was doomed to failure as well.
I stayed with the church for two years until the Pastor, frustrated with me “digging in my heels” as he put it, and remaining steadfastly devoted to my perspectives on the Bible, Israel, Messiah, and Hashem as a Messianic Gentile, gave a sermon on misuse of Torah, which included the belief that the Sinai covenant was still fully enforced upon the Jewish people.
That felt like a very personal and public rebuke.
I blogged my disagreement, which came with consequences, and ultimately decided it was in Pastor’s, the church’s, and my best interest for me to apologize and then exit Christian community entirely.
But Christian community isn’t Jewish community. Jews belong with other Jews. I don’t know how Messianic Jews are going to fully meld into Orthodox Jewish community in Israel, but I guess they’ll find out. It just seems that if the boundaries between the different sub-groups of Israeli Jews are so rigid, that penetration of said-boundaries is going to be rather difficult.
In theory, I could walk into any church in my community and be immediately welcomed. As long as I kept my big mouth shut or only mouthed the “party line” supported by that particular church as “sound doctrine,” I’d be OK.
Of course, the obvious barriers, besides me keeping my flap shut and not blogging on each and every church experience that rubbed me the wrong way, are not being able to invite people from church over to my house because it would make my wife uncomfortable, attending church at all because (she would never stop me or breathe a word of dissent about me attending) the very act of my going to a church would emphasize that she’s “sleeping with the enemy,” so to speak, and my attending Christmas and especially Easter services, would totally devastate her.
But outside of my home life and my highly specific theology, there are (or should be) no barriers to me attending church and being accepted, at least in my own little corner of Idaho.
I’ve written plenty about the struggle for we “Messianic Gentiles” in establishing our own roles and responsibilities relative to Messianic Judaism as well as to each other, but we need to be mindful that Messianic Jews also face a very similar challenge in relation to larger Judaism, especially in Israel, but also everywhere else.
Why should devotion to Israel and to Rav Yeshua be mutually exclusive for a Jew? It shouldn’t be, except that nearly twenty centuries of enmity between Christianity and Judaism has made it so.