Hiddush survey following the crisis over railway repairs on Shabbat

71% of Jewish Israelis favor allowing railway maintenance work on Shabbat

The public believes in the principle of 'live and let live,' and it wants to support freedom of religion and freedom from religion in Israel.

Seventy-one percent of the adult Jewish public in Israel supports the position that a limited amount of Sabbath maintenance should be allowed for safety purposes on Israel's railways in order to prevent serious damage to the train service on weekdays. This position is shared by 90% of secular Jewish Israelis and the majority of the non-Haredi Government Coalition parties, including 65% of Likud voters and 64% of Jewish Home voters. This survey was conducted by the Smith Polling Institute for Hiddush - for Freedom of Religion and Equality, via a telephone survey conducted Thursday, November 23, among a representative sample of 500 people from the adult Jewish population.

The public's views in Israel are clear to anyone who has eyes in his head. The public believes in 'live and let live' and wants to support freedom of religion and freedom from religion in Israel. Even the voters for the civil Government Coalition parties want this. Likud leaders would be wise to understand that they will pay a heavy price at the polls for betraying their constituents and selling off their freedoms to the ultra-Orthodox political parties. The current survey matches and reinforces the 2017 Israel Religion & State Index published recently by Hiddush, and it is clear that most of the public opposes any legislation that will increase or perpetuate religious coercion in Israel and hand over individual rights and dignity to ultra-Orthodox extremists.

The wording of the survey question was: "In the dispute over railway maintenance work on Shabbat, which of the following two positions are acceptable to you:"

As stated, 71% support allowing a limited amount of maintenance work on Shabbat, which is necessary for safety needs to avoid serious damage to the weekday train service. 23% of Jewish Israelis support the position of the ultra-Orthodox political parties, which reject any compromise on the holiness of Shabbat and demand a complete cessation of maintenance work on Shabbat, even if this harms the general public. 6% did not express an opinion.

Most of the Government Coalition parties' voters supported allowing maintenance work on Shabbat.

Most of the Government Coalition parties' voters supported allowing maintenance work on Shabbat: 65% of Likud voters, 87% of Kulanu voters, 80% of Yisrael Beiteinu voters, and 64% of Jewish Home voters. 92% of United Torah Judaism voters and 77% of Shas voters opposed railway maintenance work on Shabbat. Among voters for the Opposition parties: 98% of Zionist Union voters, 93% of Yesh Atid voters, and 95% of Meretz voters supported permitting it.

As expected, 90% of the secular Jewish public supports allowing vital maintenance work on Shabbat. Further, just as revealed in previous Hiddush surveys, there is widespread support among the traditional-religious Jewish public (65%) as well as almost one-third of the Zionist Orthodox public (29%) for permitting maintenance work on Shabbat. Another notable data point that emerged from the current survey is the difference between the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox community, which identifies entirely with Health Minister Rabbi Litzman (UTJ party) and other religious extremists, and the considerable percentage (13%) of voters for the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox Shas party who support permitting maintenance work on Shabbat. While the percentage of the traditional public (as opposed to ultra-Orthodox voters) that votes for Shas has decreased, it still exists; and the adoption of radical positions by the Shas party on this issue, the issue of permitting grocery stories to operate on Shabbat, and other matters of religious coercion may push these voters away.

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