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Almost half of the Israeli population believes that homosexuality is a perversion. A Haaretz-Dialog poll, conducted under Prof. Camil Fuchs finds that 46 percent of the people surveyed answered the question "Do you see homosexuality as a perversion?" in the affirmative, while 42 percent answered that it was not a perversion. Twelve percent said they did not know.

The survey also finds that 71 percent of the ultra-Orthodox population believe homosexuality is a perversion. So do 67 percent of the religious (Orthodox), 64 percent of the Arabs, 57 percent of the Russian-speaking immigrants, 44 percent of the observant (traditional) Jews and 24 percent of the secular population.

The survey, which will be published Friday in full in Haaretz, consisted of a representative sample of 498 interviewees.

Fuchs said that a certain decline in homophobia can be seen as compared to previous surveys. An international survey conducted in 2007 revealed that the positions regarding homosexuality in Israel were less liberal than in other Western countries, but more liberal than in Russia, Ukraine and South Korea. The level of homophobia in Israel is close to the level in Bulgaria, he said.

Fuchs added that the timing of the survey- the week in which a murderous attack was carried out at a gay community center in Tel Aviv - should be taken into consideration. "It's possible that what we have here is a reaction to trauma and also that hate-filled people think this is not the moment to admit it," he said.

The survey shows that secular people are very liberal in their attitude toward homosexuals as compared to other Western states. "In other countries there are also very conservative secular people. In Israel, in contrast, those who define themselves as secular have very liberal positions," Fuchs said.

Yaniv Weizman, head of Tel Aviv's gay youth organization, said "It comes as no surprise to me that almost half the public thinks I'm mentally ill and should be imprisoned, treated or killed. However, I feel we've made some progress. If 26 percent of the religious and 27 percent of the Arabs say we're not perverts, you can say we've achieved something."