Poll: Half of Israelis Support Women of the Wall

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The percentage of Israelis who support Women of the Wall, is greater than the percentage who don’t, a poll by the Israel Democracy Institute shows.

The poll, conducted among a representative sample of 600 Israelis ages 18 and above, found that 48 percent support the right of Women of the Wall to pray as they see fit, wearing a prayer shawl and phylacteries and reciting their prayers out loud, whereas 38 percent said they did not support this right.

Rather surprisingly, the poll found that men are more inclined to support the women’s prayer group than are women.

According to the poll, conducted a week before last Friday’s violent clashes at the Western Wall, when ultra-Orthodox teens hurled stones, chairs and water bottles at Women of the Wall supporters and activists as they held their monthly prayer service there, this support has grown stronger since the Jerusalem District Court ruled two weeks ago that it is not a violation of “local custom” for women to wear prayer shawls and phylacteries at the holy site.

Professor Tamar Hermann, who conducted the poll, said that based on the findings, Women of the Wall enjoy most of their support from educated, secular, Ashkenazi Israelis. “This is the group that represents the greatest antithesis to the Haredim,” she said.

Religious convictions and ethnicity, added Hermann, played a key role in responses. Among secular Israelis, 63.5 percent said they supported Women of the Wall; among those who defined themselves as traditional but not religious, 53 percent expressed support; among those who defined themselves traditional and religious, 26 percent; among those who defined themselves as religious, a slightly higher 27.5 percent; and among ultra-Orthodox, zero percent. Among university graduates, 57 percent said they supported the group, compared with 40-41 percent among non-university graduates.

A breakdown according to ethnicity shows that among first generation Israelis of Ashkenazi (including American) descent, support was highest at 77 percent, whereas among first generation Israelis of Sephardi descent, support was lowest at 33 percent. Among Israelis of Soviet origin, support was also quite low at 38 percent.

A majority of Israeli men – 51.5 percent – said they supported Women of the Wall, compared with only 46 percent of women. “This was surprising for us,” said Hermann, “but women do tend to be more conservative than men when it comes to matters of religion.”

Participants in the poll were also asked whether they supported Women of the Wall in wake of the Jerusalem District Court ruling in the organization’s favor. The results show that the court ruling increased support for the women’s group in virtually all of the sub-categories. Overall, 56 percent of the respondents said they supported the group following the court decision, compared with 34 percent who said they did not. Among first generation Ashkenazi Israelis, support was highest upon mention of the ruling – reaching 83 percent.

The district court ruling even managed to sway some of Women of the Wall’s staunches opponents: 3 percent of those who defined themselves as ultra-Orthodox said that in wake of the judge’s decision, they now supported women wearing prayer shawls and phylacteries at the wall.

Women of the Wall members, May 10, 2013.Credit: AFP

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