A new survey conducted this summer shows 95 percent of Israeli Jews own a copy of the Bible, and most of those consider it to be “the Holy Book”, several Israeli media outlets reported. The survey was conducted in June and the results released late last month, ahead of the 24th annual “Opening the Tanakh (Jewish Bible)” conference at the Herzog Academic College in Alon Shvut.
The conference, which consists of five days of lectures followed by a day of Biblically-themed touring, was attended by over 7,000 people from around the world.
The survey polled 501 Israeli Jews from across the religious spectrum, with detailed results published by The Jerusalem Post. Broken down by religious observance, 91 percent of those defining themselves as religiously traditional have a Bible at home, as do 82.5 percent of those calling themselves secular. 100 percent of the ultra-Orthodox and national-religious public own Bibles, as well. Among those who said they owned a Bible, however, 6 percent acknowledged they did not know where it was.
When asked what the Bible meant to them, 68 percent of respondents called it “the Holy Book”, 16 percent said it was the book that helped shape Jewish identity, and 3.4 percent saw it merely as the text they were handed for completing their mandatory military training. Another 3.8 percent said it was, “a book like any other within the realm of Jewish literature” and 9 percent said they had “no connection to the Bible, which is an ancient book with no relevance to my life today.”
Interestingly, those who called themselves traditional were more likely than those who deemed themselves Orthodox to call the Bible “the Holy Book”. 84.6 percent of those who are religiously traditional identified with that position, as opposed to 79 percent of national religious and 81 percent of ultra-Orthodox. Almost 54 percent of secular respondents saw the Bible as such.
As for actual Bible study, 42 percent of those surveyed said they opened the book frequently, or at least once a week. 30 percent said they read it infrequently, with some admitting they haven’t opened a Bible since they studied it for their high school matriculation exams. 13 percent only open their Bibles to read Psalms in times of crisis, a traditional Jewish practice, while 15 percent said they never read from their Bibles.
Participants were also asked which Bible characters they felt influenced their lives. 78 percent identified a figure, while 22 percent said no Biblical character influenced them. Among those who felt the influence of a Biblical figure, 19% chose Moses; 13% answered King David; 11 percent said Abraham; 8 percent King Solomon; 5 percent Rachel; 3 percent Sarah; 3 percent Joshua; and 1 percent Ruth.
A similar survey conducted last year, commissioned by the Bible Lands Museum, showed 93 percent of Israelis owned a Bible.