Adjust size of text


Follow us and continue the conversation

Your saved articles

You haven't saved any articles

What are you looking for?

From ‘tefillin wars’ to secular Shabbat dinner

TJI Wrap
Print this

Published: 14 July 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

A new study shows more Israelis describe themselves as “traditional” than “secular”, “modern Orthodox” or “Haredi”.

Secular activists in Tel Aviv have lodged dozens of municipal complaints against the Chabad movement in recent weeksto halt what they see as missionary activity aimed at youngsters.

They want regulation to stop booths encouraging males from age 13 to lay to tefillin interacting with minors without written parental consent. They are also asking for bans on handing out pizzas or gifts in exchange for exposure to religious content.

Campaigner Naor Narkis regularly posts photographs of Chabad Hasidim running stands outside of, or adjacent to, schools – which violates the Tel Aviv municipal code.

Chabad denies there is a problem and says criticism has only encouraged support.

“I have been an emissary in Tel Aviv for 15 years, there is a great awakening in people who come and put on tefillin,” said Rabbi Adi Elefant. “In recent weeks there has been a significant jump; before that we had 45 tefillin wearers at the stand on a record day, this week 80 to 90 arrived each day.”

It’s a common enough story in Israel where conflict between secular and religious Israelis is constant.

But many Israelis are bucking the conflict to embrace some aspects of tradition while maintaining secular lifestyles.

A groundbreaking study conducted by the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) found 45% of Israelis identify themselves as traditional, defying simplistic categorisations of secular, religious, or Orthodox.

The study, titled Traditionalists and Traditionalism in Israel, exposes the nuanced identity landscape within Israel. According to the study, traditionalism emerges as the largest identity group in the country, playing a central role within the Israeli political centre.

Contrary to popular belief, only half of the traditionalist public aligns themselves with the Likud party, showcasing a diverse range of political preferences within the traditionalist community.

One example of the secular embrace of Jewish tradition is the popularity of Shabbat meals organised by Minyan, “a home for vibrant Jewish culture in secular Tel Aviv.”

The initiative was launched last year by Oz Fishman, 29, a lecturer and researcher at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design’s architecture department, and Lipaz Ela, a 32-year-old educator and creator of Jewish experiences and content.

“Life in cities can sometimes create a sense of emptiness because they raise many questions about home and belonging,” says Fishman. “Judaism actually recognises this issue, that we find it very hard to exist alone, separate from other people.It defines 10 people together, a minyan, and in fact, tells us that to uphold certain commandments, we need company.

'Tefillin wars' break out on the streets of Israel (Haaretz)  

Almost half of Israelis identify as traditional Jews, defying conventional labels (Jerusalem Post)

Making Shabbat Dinners Cool Again for Secular Tel Avivians (Haaretz)  

Photo:  A Minyan Shabbat dinner (Gefen Reznik)

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

Enter site