Social Cohesion in Israel -- A Year of Deepening Cleavages

  • by:
    • Carole Nuriel, Director, ADL Israel
  • October 31, 2019
social cohesion summit 2019

For the third consecutive year, ADL’s Jerusalem office published a poll examining how Israelis view social cohesion within society. The Social Cohesion Index is being released in conjunction with the 3rd annual ADL Social Cohesion Summit in Jerusalem on Tuesday, November 5th during which these issues will be examined in depth.

Both the Index and the Summit are intended to measure important questions relating to the state of Israeli society today, including: Is there a sense of equality among all Israeli citizens? Do race and ethnicity play a role in divisions within Israeli society? What about differing Jewish denominational practices? And how should Israel, which considers itself the nation state of the Jewish people, relate to Diaspora Jewish communities?

This year’s results, while similar to prior years, reveal some troubling trends on these and other fronts:

  • Israelis view their society as divided – with 76% of the respondents saying that Israeli society is currently divided to very divided, up 10% from last year's survey. According to the survey, the factors that contribute most to the rift are Israel’s political leadership and new and traditional media, while the IDF is the factor that contributes most to Israeli unity.
  • On the issue of the role of Israeli Arabs in society, only one-third of respondents believe that Israel’s Arab citizens are an integral part of Israeli society. When asked about the extent to which they would like to see Arab citizens integrated into Israeli society, over a quarter replied that they did not want Arabs to integrate into Israeli society at all or to integrate only to a small extent.
  • On racial issues, the Ethiopian community is viewed as the most disadvantaged group in Israel, at 27%. A clear example of this issue was seen in the recent demonstrations following the tragic shooting death of Salomon Takka by an off-duty police officer.
  • And in reference to the relationship between Israel and Jewish communities around the world, when asked if Diaspora Jewry should be involved in decision-making processes in Israel, 52% responded that Diaspora Jewry should have no say in the decision-making processes on various issues in the State of Israel.

These are just some of the challenges facing a divided Israeli society which need to be addressed, both in theory and practice. In order to do so, Israelis need to create mechanisms that will enhance the sense of belonging of individuals and vulnerable minorities in Israeli society – mechanisms that are mindful of and show respect for all the different identities, and also create a shared civic and social basis that every citizen can feel part of.

It is true that this will require Israelis to stretch the boundaries of their individual and social inclusion, but that is exactly the test of a cohesive democratic society: the ability to accept not only those who resemble you, but also those who do not. This can be done through creating a series of broad social consensuses that will also form the basis for the acceptance of differences. These consensuses must be based on the values of mutual respect, the condemnation of expressions of hatred, bigotry, racism and discrimination and the maintenance of a respectful fabric of life that allows everyone to feel that they belong.

Click here watch a livestream of the Summit which begins on Tuesday, November 5 at 9:00 AM (Israel Time)