Survey: How Israeli Jews see Christians, Christianity

source: Jerusalem Newswire, Feb 24, 2009

By Stan Goodenough
February 24, 2009

A recent survey in Israel revealed that the country's Jews nurture an "ambivalent approach" towards Christians and Christianity.

Unsurprisingly, for those acquainted with the secular- religious divide in Israel, there are quite strong differences in viewpoints on each side.

According to reports carried in the Israeli press Tuesday, the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies carried out a "survey examining the public's stances towards Christianity, the Christian world and Christian presence in Israel."

The institute was motivated to carry out the poll at least partially due to recent events that have strained relations between Jews and Christians.

These were the Vatican's recent rehabilitation of Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson on the one hand, and a recently-aired television skit in Israel that mocked Jesus on the other.

Jews were generally infuriated by the former, many Christians by the latter.

Among other things, the survey found that Israel's Jews by and large agree that their children should be taught about Christianity, but that they should not be taught the New Testament itself.

A majority of secular Jews understand Christianity to be closer to Judaism than to Islam; while far more religious Jews feel Islam is a more kindred religion.

Little less than 50 percent of secular Jews feel the Roman Catholic Church is positive in its attitude towards Jews but 65 percent of religious Jews believe the Vatican is negative.

Most secular Jews appear untroubled by the sight of people wearing a cross, but a majority of religious and ultra-religious Jews said they were disturbed by it.

Ynetnews reports that on almost all issues, "seculars exhibited an open-minded approach towards Christianity, whereas religious respondents were less than tolerant."

"Asked whether Jews should be allowed to visit church, 80 percent of seculars replied positively and 83 percent of religious respondents answered negatively.

Forty-three percent of religious Jews believe that all or most Christians are out to proselytize Jews, but the vast majority of secular Jews dispute this.

Three-quarters of religious Jews questioned disapproved if Jewish groups receiving financial contributions from Christian organizations; 70 percent of seculars had no problem with this.

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