JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – Throughout the Hebrew Bible, the God of Israel repeatedly refers to the Jewish people as His “chosen people.”
The vast majority of Evangelical Christians believe this.
Indeed, fully 80% of Evangelicals believe that God not only chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but made specific promises to them which are valid for all time, according to a 2017 survey conducted specifically of Evangelicals, a survey my colleagues and I helped finance and design.
Yet, as Israelis celebrate the 75th anniversary of the historic and prophetic rebirth of their modern state, it turns out that far fewer Israelis agree.
A shocking new survey finds that fewer than 2-out-of-3 Israeli Jews believe that Jews are the “chosen people” as the Bible describes.
In fact, more than 1-in-3 pointedly say they don’t believe they are the “chosen people” or indicated that they aren’t sure what they believe.
The survey of 1,200 Israeli Jews was designed by two Jewish professors in the United States.
It was conducted last month in Hebrew by one of the top research and polling firms in Israel.
The survey was partially funded by ALL ISRAEL NEWS and the results are being published here for the first time.
More results will be published over the next few days, and will also be released at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Orlando, Florida, this week.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT THE “CHOSEN PEOPLE”?
Consider just a few passages from what Jewish people call the “Tanakh” and Christians call the “Old Testament.”
In Deuteronomy 7:6, the Lord says to the nation of Israel, “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”
The exact same verse is repeated in Deuteronomy 14:2.
In I Kings 3:8, King Solomon prays to the God of Israel saying, “Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted.”
In Psalm 33:12, the author writes, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.”
In Isaiah 43:20, the Lord says, “The beasts of the field will glorify Me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I have given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My chosen people.”
WHAT DO ISRAELI JEWS BELIEVE?
In light of these Bible passages, the survey asked the following question.
Do you believe that Jews are the “Chosen People” as the Bible describes?
64% of Israeli Jews said “yes”
22.4% said “no”
13.4% said they “don’t know”
HUGE SPLIT BETWEEN RIGHT-WING AND LEFT-WING VOTERS
What is particularly intriguing about the results of the survey is the enormous gulf between Jewish right-wing voters in Israel and Jewish left-wing voters.
95.6% of Israelis who voted for Orthodox religious parties said they believe that Jews are the “chosen people” as described in the Bible
86.7% of Israelis who voted for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party also said they believe that Jews are the “chosen people.”
By sharp contrast:
Only 35% of Israeli Jews who voted for any of the opposition parties (including the centrist Yesh Atid party led by Yair Lapid and the center-right National Unity party led by Benny Gantz) believe Jews are the “chosen people,” while 43% of these voters said they don’t believe this.
Only 13.8% of Israeli Jews who voted specifically for left-wing parties (like Meretz and Labor) believe that Jews are the “chosen people,” while 65% said they don’t believe this.
I also found it noteworthy just how many Israelis told the pollsters that they are not sure what they believe regarding the issue.
22% of opposition party voters said they “don’t know” if Jews are the “chosen people.”
21.3% of left-wing party voters also said they “don’t know.”
Only 7.3% of Likud voters “don’t know” what they believe.
And only 2.8% of voters for the Orthodox parties said they “don’t know” what they believe.
INCOME DIFFERENCES ALSO PLAY A FACTOR
Another variable I found intriguing was the role that income plays.
The survey found that the more income an Israeli Jewish person earns, the less likely they are to believe that Jews are God’s “chosen people.”
76.9% of Israeli Jews who said they earn “much lower than average income” also said they believe that Jews are God’s “chosen people.”
By contrast, only 53.9% of Israeli Jews who said they earn a “higher than average income” agreed.
That 23-point gap caught my attention and deserves further analysis.
At the same time:
Only 10.6% of Israeli Jews who said they earn “much lower than average income” rejected the notion that Jews are the “chosen people.”
Yet three times as many – 34.6% of Israeli Jews who said they earn a “higher than average income” – said “no,” they don’t believe Jews are the “chosen people.”
HOW WAS THE SURVEY CONDUCTED?
Two American Jewish professors designed the survey.
One was Dr. Mordechai Inbari, full professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of North Carolina Pembroke.
The other was Dr. Kirill Bumin, the dean of the Graduate Studies and full professor in the Department of Political Science and International Studies at Stonehill College
The scholars contracted with the Geocartography Knowledge Group, one of the leading research and polling firms in Israel, to professionally conduct the survey.
A representative sample of 1,200 Israeli Jewish respondents were surveyed.
The sample provides a 95% confidence level that the sampling error does not exceed ±2.82%.
The sample includes 1,000 respondents who were interviewed online in Hebrew.
It also includes 200 respondents who were interviewed by phone in Hebrew. These were the responses of Israelis ages 65 and over, and ultra-Orthodox Israelis, both of which are historically is less responsive to online surveys and more responsive to phone surveys.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.