Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Israeli Poll on Religious Law

It seems that there was a recent Ynet - Gesher Foundation poll, conducted in Israel, on religious law within the country. See,7340,L-3793787,00.html. It seems that the respondents were asked questions about which Israeli laws emerging from Judaism should be repealed and, from a list of 4 potential new laws from the same root, which law should be enacted. While many of the findings were quite predicable, some of the them were most interesting.

In response to the questions concerning laws desired to be repealed. the religious law that seems to be the most bothersome is the exemption of yeshiva students from the draft...yet, even this demand was only voiced by slightly over 50% of the population. The numbers reflecting a desire to repeal other laws were much less with only 20% saying that they would want to repeal the law that demands that marriage and divorce be according to Halacha. This may reflect that dissent over religion in Israel may not be as bad an one may think yet the question that was asked was to choose the first law you would wish repealed. It may be that, given a choice to repeal multiple laws, there may be a greater desire to repeal other laws than is shown by this survey. They did find that 86% of the secular population would like to have malls and shopping centres open on Shabbat.

What I found most interesting, though, was the responses to the question of which religious law would they like to see added. There were four choices and the one that garnered the most support was the institution of the death penalty for murderers. That is most strange because the death penalty was rarely carried out within the rules of Torah jurisprudence. As the second most popular choice was a law to honour parents, which was not really enforceable with Torah jurisprudence, it would seem that the choices were not really tied to religious sensitivities per se but rather the mores of the respondents. If the point of the poll was to somehow measure the feelings towards Judaism of the populace, it didn't really seem to serve this purpose.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

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