Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Formerly Religiously Observant and Newly Religious


Yair Assaf Shapira

Our religious identity is a component of our overall identity and for many people also determines their daily routine, not to mention the way they choose to dress. But identities evolve, and during the course of a lifetime some people may change the nature of their religious identity.

According to the social survey conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics in 2017, 211,000 people ages 20 and older who live in Israel declared that although at age 15 they lived in a secular or traditional household (not religiously observant), they view themselves today as religiously observant, traditional-religious, or Haredi. These are the "newly religiously observant (referred to as hozrim betshuva in Hebrew)," who comprise 15% of the adult religiously observant population (which includes religiously observant, traditional-religious, and Haredi) in Israel.

The opposite trend also occurs, in which people who previously belonged to the religiously observant population currently define themselves as part of the non-religiously observant population. They are those who have "left the fold," or the" formerly religiously observant" (the designation "leaving the fold (yotz'im l'she'elah in Hebrew)" is customarily used to describe someone who was previously Haredi, while the designation "formerly religiously observant" usually refers to someone who was formerly religiously observant, but not Haredi. We use the term "formerly religiously observant" to describe both these groups, due to the limitations of our data). In Israel there are about 504,000 formerly religiously observant people ages 20 and older, who view themselves today as not religiously observant, and state that at age 15 they were part of the religiously observant population. The formerly religiously observant comprise 18% of the non-religiously observant adult Jewish population in Israel.

In Jerusalem there reside 25,400 newly religiously observant, and they comprise 12% of the religiously observant population in the city, which is slightly less than the national percentage. There are also about 20,400 formerly religiously observant people living in the city, who comprise 20% of the non-religiously observant population in the city, a slightly higher percentage than in the entire country.

The formerly religiously observant in Jerusalem comprise a similar percentage to that of the non-religiously observant population in Petah Tikva (19%) and in Beersheba (22%). The percentage of the formerly religiously observant in Netanya (26%), where one in four secular people belongs to that group, is the highest among all the big cities.

In Tel Aviv there reside 29,700 formerly religiously observant people, who comprise 11% of the adult non-religiously observant population, which numbers 263,800.

Translation: Gilah Kahn

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