An ambitious an encompassing study across all the youth from all sectors in Israel, Jews, and Arabs, religious, secular, traditional and orthodox gives a glimpse into the world of Israel’s youth. They break strongly to the right, are becoming more religious, they’re less optimistic about the country’s future, don’t believe the country’s leaders or the courts or most of the country’s institutions. On the other hand they really desperately want to fit in and though worried about the security situation they’d never dream of leaving the country. They’re also more concerned with housing and perhaps having a good time than they are about the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
These were the conclusions of an 18 yearlong study from the Macro Center for Political Economy and the Fredrich Ebert Foundation. This was the fourth part of a series of studies released once every six years beginning in 1998. The purpose of these studies was not just to see the positions of Israeli youth but also to compare how each subsequent young generation differs from the previous one. The results were publicized in the Yediot Acharonot newspaper.
One of the most dramatic shifts was in religious observance. In 2004 54% of the youth considered themselves secular and non-observant whereas today only 40% consider themselves secular non-observant. 35% consider themselves traditional as opposed to 29% in 1998 and 26% in 2004. Youth calling themselves orthodox (Charedi) went up from 9% to 15%.
The researchers explain there are 2 reasons for this phenomenon. Firstly higher birthrates by the religious and secondly, the need for youth to define themselves causes secular non-observant youth to come closer to religion and the self-definition it provides. “The leaning toward religion gives an anchor and security and helps minimize the feeling of confusion that is common to this age group worldwide”, the researchers explain.
According to Dr. Scheindlin one of the researchers, coming towards or going away from religion usually is a yardstick of liberalism. “The more religious a society is the more conservative it becomes, its opinions more to the right. It’s important to note that in the religious there are groups that aren’t necessarily to the right but since the religious demographic is growing it influences all of Israeli society leaning it to the right. Today’s young Israelis, tomorrow’s Israeli adults will be more to the right, more religious and less liberal than their predecessors,” Dr. Scheindlin says.
The study also shows that secular non-observant youth were never more pessimistic about their future than they are today. On the other hand Arab youth are optimistic compared to earlier generations and they believe they can fulfill their ambitions in Israel. Another finding was that the youth lost their faith in the country’s institutions including the IDF.