Haredim, Arabs trail other Israelis on climate awareness — survey

29% of Haredi respondents express unwillingness to make a lifestyle change to help the climate, compared with 10% of Arabs and 6% of the general public.

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews cross the road at the Bar-Ilan junction in Jerusalem, on October 19, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox Jews cross the road at the Bar-Ilan junction in Jerusalem, on October 19, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities are far behind the rest of the population in awareness of climate change, according to a survey released Monday to coincide with the UN’s COP27 climate conference in Egypt.

Haredi parties won 18 seats in elections last week, and are certain to form a key part of Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government. Arab parties’ 10 Knesset representatives will sit in the opposition.

The survey, commissioned by the Environmental Protection Ministry, shows that among non-Haredi Jewish Israelis, 83 percent of respondents were able to name at least one consequence of climate change, compared with 55% of Haredim and 50% of Arabs.

For example, extreme weather events such as heatwaves and floods were cited by 18% of the general population but just 11% of ultra-Orthodox respondents and 5% of Arabs.

Less than one in five (19%) of Haredim said they were very concerned about climate change, compared with 50% of Arabs and 61% of the rest of the public.

Four in five members of non-Haredi Jewish Israelis thought there were activities that individuals could take to help arrest climate change, with a third naming a reduction in single-use plastic — the subject of recent Environmental Protection Ministry campaigns. This is compared with just one in 10 Haredim and 13% of Arabs.

Disposable plastic tableware for sale in the religious neighborhood of Givat Shaul, Jerusalem, October 27, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Recycling and reducing consumption were mentioned by a quarter of the general population (26%) as helpful steps one could take, a view shared by just 10% of Haredim and 7% of Arabs.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents from the general public said they were willing to recycle bottles and containers and cut down on plastic (73% and 72% respectively). This is compared with 47% and 33% respectively among Haredim and 49% and 57% among Arabs.

Nearly a third of ultra-Orthodox Jews (29%) were not willing to make any lifestyle changes for the sake of the climate, compared with 10% of Arabs and 6% of the rest of the public.

Netanyahu has pledged to scrap a tax hike on disposable plasticware imposed by the outgoing government at the initiative of the Environmental Protection Ministry, as a step to satisfy his Haredi allies.

Haredi parties said the increase targeted their constituents — a segment of society that relies heavily on single-use plastics.

Israelis spend NIS 2 billion ($560 million) annually on plastic tableware, with the amount used per person nearly five times that of EU residents, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry.

The survey questioned 802 adults from the general public (in Hebrew), and an additional 304 adults each from the Haredi and Arab populations. The margin of error was for 3.5% for the general public, and 5.7% for Haredim and Arabs.

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