Israelis support halting protests, will avoid synagogues on Yom Kippur

Israel Democracy Institute poll shows Israelis understand the severity of the pandemic, have little confidence in the government.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

A large majority of Israelis supports a temporary ban on public demonstrations if a total lockdown is needed to stop the skyrocketing coronavirus infections, the Israel Democracy Institute reported Wednesday.

A survey that examined public opinion about government policies relating to the coronavirus outbreak and the economic fallout from the pandemic found that only 27% of Israelis trust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lead the fight against the pandemic. That is a plunge from the 57.5% who said in April that they trusted him as the prime minister presided over efforts that brought the infection rate down to near zero at the time.

The figure is the lowest for Netanyahu since the beginning of the pandemic, with Jewish support dropping from 37.5% in the previous survey to 29.5% and only 15% of the Arab public having faith in Netanyahu, down from 21%.

A majority of 63% of Israelis believes that a national lockdown should include a ban on public demonstrations, while only 29% say that “demonstrations are a fundamental right in a democracy and should be allowed to continue even during the lockdown.”

When looking at which party those answering the poll voted for in the last Knesset elections, only those who voted for the left-wing Labor-Gesher-Meretz faction had a majority of supporters (60%) in favor of holding demonstrations during the closure. However, that faction has only seven seats in the 120-seat Knesset and in the election received only 5.7% of the popular vote.

A third of the Israeli public supports the current lockdown, but 29% said they would prefer additional measures; 72% of the public is afraid of catching the disease themselves.

With coronavirus infections breaking new records daily, 61% of the Jews polled said they were not planning to go to synagogue at all on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar when even a high percentage of secular Jews spend the day at prayer.

Last year, with no pandemic, only 39% of Israeli Jews said they weren’t going to synagogue. However, a majority of the religiously observant public – 73% of the ultra-Orthodox, 66% of the traditional-religious, and 59% of the religious Jewish population – responded that they will attend, whether for all the prayers or just to hear the blowing of the shofar, which is a central part of the prayer services.

The survey also showed that almost half (47%) of those earning an average income fear for their economic future, with less than half of the Jews (48%) and less than a third of the Arab public (28%) being optimistic that Israel has the ability to recover from the crisis.