Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Time of Loneliness

Yoad Shahar


The High Holiday period is a happy family time for most of us. After the holidays, though, a sense of loneliness sometimes descends on us. Even though loneliness is a personal experience that differs for everyone, it is interesting to see which Jerusalemites tend to experience it more intensely than others. The annual Social Survey of the Central Bureau of Statistics asked respondents if there are situations in which they feel lonely, and whether there are people on whom they can rely for help if they do feel a sense of distress or crisis. 

We would assume that married people feel less lonely, and indeed, evidently 36% of the singles in Jerusalem feel lonely often or sometimes, compared with just 31% among married individuals. At the same time, if you have already married, its best to stay married, as 47% of divorced or separated individuals and 68% of widows and widowers reported feeling lonely. This data seemingly romanticizes married life, yet even marriage does not promise that life will be a rose garden, as it does not guarantee that there will be someone to lean on during a crisis. Only 77% of those married said they have somebody on whom they could rely in a crisis, compared with 80% among divorced people, 83% among the widowed, and 87% among singles. 

It is customarily believed that in traditional societies the feeling of togetherness is greater than, or replaces, the sense of loneliness. Yet when we examine the data for Jerusalem by population group, we find that feelings of loneliness are greater among the city’s Arabs. Among Arabs, 39% said they often or sometimes feel lonely, compared with only 25% among Jews. Regarding the question of whether they have someone to rely on in a time of crisis, apparently only 52% of Arabs have such a person, compared with 94% of Jews. 

The extent of religious belief or the nature of religious identity also affects one’s feelings of loneliness and the sense that there is someone to rely on. Among the ultra-orthodox (haredim), only 10% feel lonely often or sometimes. Among the religiously observant, 28% feel lonely, and among the secular this figure is 29%. Likewise, 96% of the ultra-orthodox reported having someone on whom they can rely, compared with 94% among the religiously observant and 91% among the secular. 

Loneliness, as well as the sense that one has or does not have someone to lean on, is related first and foremost to the state of reality. Yet it is also a product of the manner in which we experience and understand reality. The data reveal that feelings of loneliness and of having someone to rely on in crisis are linked to the lifestyle we have chosen for ourselves, which shapes both our reality and the manner in which we experience it. 



Translation: Merav Datan





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