Press Release

ADL Survey Finds Israeli Society is Increasingly Divided, with a Record 81 Percent Saying the Rifts are Widening

More than 50% of Israelis changed their views for the worse of Haredi sector in wake of the COVID-19 crisis

Jerusalem, Israel, March 8, 2021 … A new survey of Israeli public attitudes released by ADL (Anti-Defamation League) found that a record 81 percent of Israelis believe that their society is increasingly divided, and the rifts are widening. This represents a marked increase from the 69 percent of Israelis who held those views in a similar poll four years ago.

Fielded in advance of ADL’s annual Israel Social Cohesion Summit the poll of more than 500 Israeli adults found that nearly half of the Israeli public changed their views for the worse toward the Haredi sector, in part due to perceptions of how that community responded to public mandates around preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Only a minority of respondents -- about 31 percent – see Israel’s Haredim as being an “integral part” of Israeli society. This is a significant decline from the 43 percent who agreed that Haredim were an integral part of society in 2019, before the pandemic.

The ADL Israel Social Cohesion Index survey was conducted by Maagar Mohot Institute During February 2021, and has a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

“At a time when Israeli society is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and faces political and social instability, there is an increasing sense among Israeli citizens that our society is more divided than ever before,” said Carole Nuriel, Director of ADL’s Israel Office. “The increase in the negative sentiments toward various sectors in Israeli society, along with the unwillingness to unite forces between sectors – both politically and socially – should concern all those who value the health and cohesion of our democracy.”

Those issues will be discussed during the upcoming ADL Israel Social Cohesion Summit, to be held March 9 by ADL Israel, with the generous support of the EVZ Foundation and in cooperation with YNET and The Times of Israel. Speakers at the annual summit will include Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Minister of Diaspora Affairs, Omer Yankelevitch, Yesh Atid member party, MK Maj. Gen. (Res.) Orna Barbivai, Head of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh, Chairman of New Hope party and Candidate for Prime Minister, Gideon Saar, Chairwoman of the Labor Party, MK Merav Michaeli, Candidate for Prime Minister, former Israeli Minister of Defense and the Leader of the Yamina Party, Naftali Bennett, Chairman of Meretz party, MK Nitzan Horowitz, Defense Minister and Blue and White party Chairman, Benny Gantz, Chairman of the Executive, The Jewish Agency, Isaac Herzog, top journalists and publicists, influencers in Israel and many more.

For the survey, a wide cross-section of Israelis was polled on the question: “How would you describe Israeli society today?” as well as other questions on how they perceive the overall health of society and what they believe are factors contributing to or inhibiting social cohesion.

The poll’s key findings include:

  • 81 percent of those polled believe Israeli society is divided or very divided. Only 4 percent responded that Israeli society is united or very united. This represents a consistent increase among those who believe that Israeli society is divided since the initial survey in 2017, when 69% said Israeli society was divided.
  • 61 percent believe the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) contributes most to unity in Israel.
  • According to respondents, the factors that most contribute to the division are:
  • Israel’s political leadership (90 percent of those that expressed an opinion)
  • Social media – Internet, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc. (84 percent)
  • The news media: radio, television, the press (84 percent)
  • Rabbis, and the religious establishment (74 percent)

Respondents were also asked which is the most discriminated against group in Israeli society today from among a list of groups. Ethiopians were listed in first place in this category (21%), followed by Israeli Arabs (19%) and the LGBT (16%).

When further segmented by religious group, most of the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) respondents (54 percent) took the view that the Haredim are the most discriminated against group. Likewise, a majority of Arab respondents claimed that the Arabs were the most discriminated against group (64 percent).

To the question, “Are Israel’s Arab citizens an integral part of Israeli society?” only 30 percent of those who expressed an opinion answered in the affirmative. The survey participants were also asked: “To what extent are you prepared to see a governmental coalition in Israel that is based on a partnership with the Arab parties?” To this question, 50 percent responded they were unwilling to see a coalition based on a partnership with the Arab parties. Only 28% responded they are willing to see such a coalition to a large, or very large, extent.

“Now more than ever, it’s clear that Israeli leaders and nongovernmental organizations need to prioritize programs and policies that aid in the healing of society’s rifts,” Nuriel said. “For the health and future of our democracy, we need to devote more attention to the values and visions that can help to unite our society.”