March 8, 2016

Israel’s Religiously Divided Society

7. Education, values and science

Although they have differing perspectives on many political issues, members of Israel’s major religious groups – Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze – place great importance on a few core values, including family relationships, education, career success and helping the needy.

Israeli Jews across the religious spectrum say these values are important to them. Although they have varying levels of education themselves, overwhelming majorities of Jews across a range of demographic groups say giving their children a good education, whether secular or religious, is important to them. Similarly, Jews of different backgrounds agree about the importance of maintaining strong family bonds, helping the needy and having a successful career.

When it comes to these values, Israeli Arabs and Jews have similar perspectives. Majorities of Muslims, Christians and Druze in Israel say maintaining family bonds is important, as are career success, education and helping the less fortunate members of society.

The survey also asked about issues related to science, finding considerable differences among Israeli Jewish groups when it comes to views about human evolution and the relationship between religion and science. For instance, most Hilonim say there is conflict between religion and science, while most Haredim and Datiim say there is not. This fits a pattern also found in the United States, where less religious people are more likely to perceive religion to be in conflict with science.

Overall, a somewhat higher share of Israeli Jews say humans and other living things have evolved over time than say they have existed in their present form since the beginning of time (53% vs. 43%). However, the wide secular-religious gulfs that characterize many aspects of Israeli society also are apparent on this question. Just 3% of Haredim believe in evolution, compared with an overwhelming majority of Hilonim (83%).

In Israel, belief in evolution is lower among Arabs than among Jews. Most Arabs say human beings and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time – a view that is shared by majorities of Muslims, Christians and Druze.

Wide differences in educational attainment among Jewish subgroups

Hilonim considerably more likely than other Jewish groups to have college educationLevels of education among Jews in Israel vary considerably by subgroup, language and ethnicity.

On average, Hilonim are more highly educated than members of other Jewish subgroups in Israel. Fully 45% of Hiloni adults hold a college degree, compared with 13% of Haredim, 22% of Datiim and 23% of Masortim.

Haredim are less likely than other Jewish groups to have completed a high school education. About half of Haredi adults (49%) did not complete high school, compared with roughly one-in-three Datiim and Masortim and just 15% of Hilonim.

Levels of educational attainment also vary considerably by linguistic background. A majority of Jews who speak primarily Russian at home (59%) say they have a college degree. By contrast, few Yiddish speakers say they have a college degree (5%), while most of those who speak Yiddish have not completed high school (65%). The Hebrew-speaking majority holds the middle ground; roughly three-in-ten Hebrew speakers (29%) say they have a college degree.

In general, Ashkenazi Jews have considerably more education than Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews. About half of Ashkenazim (48%) have a college degree, compared with 18% of Sephardim/Mizrahim.

Religious education more common among HaredimGender matters less than other factors when it comes to educational attainment among Jews. On average, Jewish women in Israel are at least as well educated as Jewish men; about one-third of both women (35%) and men (31%) have a college degree.

The vast majority of Israeli Jews (94%) completed their highest level of education from a secular institution, but religious education is common among some segments of society.

Haredim are particularly likely to have received their highest level of education from a religious institution (kolel or yeshiva). Nearly four-in-ten Haredim say they attained religious education below the high school level (29%) or graduated from a yeshiva or other religious high school (9%). By comparison, few Masortim (1%) and Hilonim (1%) say their highest education was from a religious institution.

Smaller share of Arabs than Jews have completed collegeJews who speak Yiddish at home (virtually all of whom are Haredim) are considerably more likely than Hebrew or Russian speakers to have received their highest training from a religious institution.

Owing largely to gender differences in religious education among Haredim, Jewish men overall are more likely than Jewish women to have received religious schooling (10% vs. 2%). Among Haredim, men are far more likely than women to have received their highest level of education from a religious institution (61% vs. 10%). The same is true, although to a lesser extent, among Datiim (20% vs. 4%). Among non-Orthodox Jews, nearly all women and men say they attended secular schools.

Overall, Israeli Jews are considerably better educated than Israeli Arabs. Fully 33% of Jews have a college degree, roughly twice the share of Arabs who say they have completed college (16%). Similar shares of Muslims, Christians and Druze say they have a college degree.

The survey did not offer Muslims, Christians and Druze religious schooling as a separate response category of educational attainment. As a result, the survey is unable to analyze how many Muslims, Christians and Druze in Israel have received religious education.

Israel’s major religious groups hold similar values and life goals

The survey asked respondents about the importance of a variety of possible life goals, including giving children a good secular education, giving children a good religious education, having strong family relationships, having personal career success, having the opportunity to travel the world and helping those in need.

The disparate groups in Israeli society all tend to place similarly high priority on family relationships, education, community responsibility and career success. But there is more disagreement among different Jewish subgroups, as well as between Jews and Arabs, about the importance of international travel.

Secular and religious education both held in high regard

Jews agree on the importance of a good secular education for their childrenThe vast majority of Israeli Jews say it is either very important (75%) or somewhat important (21%) for their children to have a good secular education.22

Despite having varying levels of personal educational attainment, majorities of Israeli Jews across nearly all religious, ethnic and cultural groups say giving their children a good secular education is important.

Haredi Jews, however, stand out from other religious subgroups: While most Haredim (69%) say it is important to give their children a good secular education, fully three-in-ten say it is not important. By contrast, nearly all Datiim (97%), Masortim (98%) and Hilonim (99%) say a secular education is at least somewhat important.

Jews who received their highest education from a religious institution are somewhat more skeptical of the value of a good secular education than are Jews who received their highest training from a secular institution. Still, most Israeli Jews who received a religious education (75%) say a secular education is at least somewhat important for children.

Importance of secular education among Jews and ArabsIsraeli Arabs are about as likely as Jews to say giving their children a good secular education is very or somewhat important; overwhelming proportions of both groups express this view (93% and 96%, respectively). And the vast majority of Muslims, Christians and Druze all say giving children a good secular education is at least somewhat important.

Among Muslims, overwhelming proportions of men and women, those across different age groups and those with different levels of personal educational attainment say a good secular education is important for children.

Hilonim less likely than other Jews to value Jewish education for childrenIn addition to a secular education, most Jews in Israel (74%) also value giving their children a good religious education.

Hilonim stand out for placing less importance on Jewish education. But even among Hilonim, roughly half (54%) say giving their children a good religious education is very or somewhat important. By comparison, virtually all Haredim and Datiim and 89% of Masortim say a good Jewish education is important for their children.

Jews who say they primarily speak Russian at home value religious education less than other groups. Only about one-quarter of Russian-speaking Israeli Jews (24%) say they value giving their children a good Jewish education; the majority view among this group is that a Jewish education is not too important or not at all important for their children (72%).

About nine-in-ten Sephardi or Mizrahi Jews (89%) say Jewish education is important. Among Ashkenazim, however, a smaller percentage – though still a majority (60%) – share this view.

Majorities of Jews across different age groups and education levels value a good religious education for their children, but those who have a college degree are less likely than those who are not as well educated to say a religious education is important for their children.

Arabs more likely than Jews to value religious education for childrenOverall, Israeli Arabs are more likely than Jews to say giving their children a good religious education is at least somewhat important (91% vs. 74%).

Muslims in particular value a good religious education for their children (92%). Christians and Druze also are more likely than Jews to say a good religious education is important for their children, although by smaller margins.

Large majorities of Muslims across different age and education groups say they value giving their children a good religious education. And Muslim women are about as likely as Muslim men to say they value giving their children a good religious education.

Majorities say personal career success important

Haredim somewhat less likely than other Jews to value career successJews and Arabs agree on importance of personal career successMajorities of Jews across all religious subgroups say personal career success is important to them, including at least eight-in-ten Datiim (87%), Masortim (91%) and Hilonim (92%). Relatively speaking, Haredim are somewhat less likely to say being successful in a high-paying career or profession is at least somewhat important to them. Still, about two-thirds of Haredim (68%) say it is important.

Three-in-ten Haredim (31%) say a high-paying successful career is not important to them personally. By contrast, fewer Datiim (13%), Masortim (8%) and Hilonim (7%) share this view.

One group that seems to value career success less is Yiddish-speaking Jews. Among Yiddish speakers, public opinion is roughly evenly divided between those who say personal career success is important (46%) and those who say it is not (52%). Among Hebrew and Russian speakers, by comparison, large majorities say being successful in a high-paying career or profession is important.

Across different age, gender and education groups, majorities of Jews say career success is important to them. Younger Jewish adults in Israel – that is, those between the ages of 18 and 49 – are somewhat more likely than their elders (ages 50 and older) to say they value personal career success (92% vs. 84%). And those with at least a high school education are more likely than those with less education to say this (92% vs. 82%).

Israeli Jews and Arabs are about equally likely to value personal career success. Similar shares of Jews (89%), Muslims (92%), Christians (96%) and Druze (94%) say being successful in a high-paying career or profession is important to them.

Majorities of Muslims across different age, gender and education groups say personal career success is important to them.

Family relationships universally valued

Jews in Israel value family bonds
Importance of family goes across religious linesNearly universally, Jews in Israel say maintaining strong family relationships is very important or somewhat important to them. More than nine-in-ten Jews across different religious and ethnic backgrounds agree that maintaining strong family relationships is important to them, personally. For example, 99% of Haredim and 96% of Hilonim say maintaining family relationships is important, as do 96% of Ashkenazi Jews and 98% of Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews.

Israeli Arabs are just as likely as Jews to say maintaining strong family relationships is very or somewhat important to them. Similar shares of Muslims (97%), Christians (98%) and Druze (92%) share this view.

Overwhelming majorities of Muslims across different demographic groups say maintaining strong family relationships is important to them.

Majorities value community responsibility

Large majorities of Jews across different backgrounds say helping those in need is very important or somewhat important to them.

Most Israeli Jews say helping those in need is important

Jews and Arabs agree on importance of helping the needyRoughly nine-in-ten or more Haredim (97%), Datiim (92%) and Masortim (91%) say helping those in need is important to them personally. A somewhat smaller share (but still a large majority) of Hilonim (80%) say they personally value helping the needy.

Israeli Arabs are slightly more likely than Jews to say helping the needy is important to them.

Large majorities among Muslims (92%), Christians (90%) and Druze (83%) say they personally value helping those in need.

As is the case with Jews, majorities of Muslims across different age, gender and education groups say helping others who are in need is important to them.

World travel more important to some Jewish groups than others

The share of Israeli Jews who say world travel is at least somewhat important to them is higher than the share who say the opportunity to travel is not too or not at all important to them (57% vs. 42%).

More Masortim, Hilonim than Haredim and Datiim value world travel

More Arabs than Jews value world travelWhile Jews of different religious backgrounds agree on many of the other values mentioned in the survey, they have very different perspectives on the importance of world travel. Traveling the world is not important to the vast majority of Haredim (82%). But for Hilonim, roughly seven-in-ten (69%) say it is at least somewhat important to them to have the opportunity to travel the world.

Younger Muslims more likely to value world travelA slim majority of Datiim (56%) say world travel is not important, while among Masortim, public opinion leans in the opposite direction (55% say traveling the world is important to them).

On this issue, there are no significant differences between Jewish men and women. But younger adults (those under age 50) are slightly more likely than older Israeli Jews to say having the opportunity to travel the world is important to them (59% vs. 53%). And those who have a college degree (65%) are more likely than those with a high school education (58%) or less than a high school education (45%) to value world travel.

Overall, Israeli Arabs are more likely than Jews to say having the opportunity to travel around the world is at least somewhat important to them (66% vs. 57%). Majorities of Muslims (68%), Christians (62%) and Druze (57%) say they value international travel.

Younger Muslim adults are considerably more likely than older Muslims to say they value world travel. Among Muslims ages 18-49, 73% say having the opportunity to travel the world is very or somewhat important to them, compared with 52% of older Muslims.

More secular than religious Jews see conflict between religion and science

Hilonim more likely than Haredim to say science and religion are in conflictA majority of Israeli Jews (58%) say science and religion are in conflict with each other, while 37% say there is no conflict between religion and science.

Generally, secular Jews are more likely than religious Jews to say religion and science are in conflict with each other. Roughly three-quarters of Hilonim (73%) see a conflict between religion and science, a significantly higher share than among Haredim (33%), Datiim (39%) and Masortim (50%).

There are no major differences by age, gender or ethnicity among Israeli Jews when it comes to views about a potential conflict between science and religion. But highly educated Jews – those with a college degree – are more likely than those with a high school education or less to say science and religion are in conflict.

Israeli Jews are slightly more likely than Arabs to see conflict between religion and science (58% vs. 52%). Muslims, Christians and Druze share similar opinions on this question.

Muslims across different age groups are about equally likely to see tension between religion and science. There also are no statistically significant differences by level of education or gender among Muslims on this question.

Jews somewhat more likely than Arabs to say religion and science are in conflict

Wide gulfs among Jewish groups on views of evolution

About half of Israeli Jews (53%) say they believe humans and other living things have evolved over time, while a slightly smaller share (43%) reject evolution, saying instead that humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.

About half of Israeli Jews believe in evolution

Among the four Jewish subgroups, only a majority of Hilonim (83%) say they believe in evolution. By contrast, Haredim almost universally believe humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time (96%).

More Jews than Arabs believe in evolutionAmong Datiim as well, a large majority say humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time (85%). A smaller majority of Masortim (58%) take this view, while roughly a third (35%) say humans have evolved over time.

Jews’ views on this issue also vary considerably by ethnicity and education. A majority of Ashkenazi Jews believe in evolution (66%), compared with 39% of Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews. And Jews with a college degree are considerably more likely than Jews with less education to say they believe in evolution.

Younger Muslims more likely to believe in evolutionIsraeli Arabs are more likely to say humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time than to express a belief in evolution (57% vs. 37%).

Fewer Druze than Muslims and Christians say humans and other living things have evolved over time, but 12% of Druze declined to answer the question.

Belief in evolution is higher among younger Muslims. Among Muslims ages 18-49, 41% say they believe in evolution, compared with 27% of those ages 50 and older.

Among Jews, views on evolution vary considerably based on education. But Muslims who have a college degree are no more likely than those who did not complete college to believe in evolution. Muslim men and women are also about equally likely to say they believe in evolution.

  1. All respondents, whether or not they have or intend to have children, were asked these questions about the value of religious or secular education for their children.