The first full national survey on how British Jews feel about Israel is to be carried out early next year.
It has been commissioned by the Pears Foundation, one of the major family trusts supporting Jewish causes, and will be undertaken by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR).
Though such surveys are fairly routine in the United States, they remain a rarity among British Jews.
JPR published some information on British Jewish feelings towards Israel 13 years ago, but this was based on a few questions which formed part of a broader survey of social attitudes.
Trevor Pears, executive chair of the Pears Foundation, said that since then, “so much has changed in the national and global political landscape. It is important to increase our understanding of the thoughts and sentiments held by Jews in this country regarding Israel, and where it stands in Jewish consciousness.”
David Graham, director of social and demographic research at JPR, said: “We are aiming to get as broad and representative a survey as we reasonably can. We want to know what the average Jew in Britain thinks.”
The research will involve an internet survey conducted by leading pollsters Ipsos Mori, followed up by focus groups.
“We are confident that several thousand households will have the chance to take part, including the more Orthodox sections of the community,” Dr Graham said.
It will investigate “a number of key issues” including visits to Israel, friendships, business connections and other attachments as well as “the importance of Israel on Jewish identity, be it from a religious, cultural or secular position”, he explained.
“We are also interested in people’s opinion of the political situation and what particular policies they approve or disapprove of. We are coming at this with a blank slate.”
The questionnaire, in the final stages of preparation, is likely to be released in January with a report issued next summer. Its findings should be useful for other community organisations, said JPR acting director Jon Boyd.
In 1996, JPR found that 43 per cent of British Jews felt a “strong”, and another 38 per cent “moderate”, attachment towards Israel.
Some further evidence emerged five years ago in a UJIA survey of parents of children in Jewish education, which focused on “moderately engaged” Jews — that is, excluding the top third of the constituency who were most involved in Jewish life. Seventy-eight per cent of the moderately engaged cared deeply about Israel, three-quarters were disturbed by media coverage and 31 per cent were often “very critical” of Israeli government policies, compared to 28 per cent who were not.