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April 21, 2015 1:20 pm

Poll: Israel is One of the World’s Least Religious Countries

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Jewish woman praying by the Western Wall in Israel. Photo: Reuters

Perhaps it’s the Jewish state, but the state of Judaism in Israel might raise a few eyebrows: according to an international Gallup poll, Israel is now one of the world’s least religious countries.

Nearly two-thirds of the Israelis polled either described themselves as not religious, or convinced atheists. Fifty-seven percent of Israelis described themselves as non-religious, while 8% said they were convinced atheists. Just 30% described themselves as religious.

This makes Israel less religious than Japan (62%), Germany (59%), Switzerland (58%) and South Korea (55%). The Jewish state was neck-and-neck with the U.K. and the Netherlands, which both had a 66% non-religious population.

And it makes it far less religious than others in its neighborhood. Seventy-five percent of the population in the Palestinian Territories identified as religious. In the Middle East and North Africa, 82% of interviewees identified as religious.

The poll, however, may not be an accurate representation of religiosity in Israel because of one key element: the way Israelis view the word, “religious.”

According to Professor of Jewish Law at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Conservative Rabbi David Golinkin, Jews in Israel who keep certain elements of the tradition, while abstaining from some of Judaism’s more stringent laws, would not call themselves “religious.” Such Jews would consider themselves “traditional.”

“They are certainly not non-religious,” Golinkin told The Algemeiner.

Indeed, the latest poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Center showed that when a more nuanced approach is used to defining religiosity, only 46% claim they are fully non-religious, while 15% claimed to be Orthodox, 7% ultra-Orthodox, and 32% traditional — which would make 54% of the country at least nominally religious.

According to the Gallup poll, worldwide young people appear to be more religious than their elders. About 66% of people under 34 said they were religious, compared with other age groups.

And income seems to play an even higher role, with atheism over 15% higher among those in the medium high and high income brackets (22% and 25%, respectively) compared with low and medium low income (6% and 5%).

“With the trend of an increasingly religious youth globally, we can assume that the number of people who consider themselves religious will only continue to increase,” said President of WIN/Gallup International Association Jean-Marc Leger.

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