Which factors have the greatest impact on a person’s status in society? Is one’s fate determined by the environment within which one is born and raised, or is it the individual in his or her own right who determines that status? In an attempt to discover the answer to this weighty question in the context of Israeli society, the respondents in a 2018 survey conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics were asked to pick the three factors which in their opinion have the most impact on the status of a person in society.

Among residents of Jerusalem, as well as among the population of Israel as a whole, of Tel Aviv, and of Haifa, the largest percentage of respondents (44% in Jerusalem) indicated that a person’s financial situation is the central factor which influences his or her status. In Jerusalem, this was followed by education (42%), skills and ability (42%), personal connections (40%), and profession (23%). These same categories were also chosen as having the greatest impact by the respondents in the population in Israel and by the respondents in the other two large cities, with one’s financial situation being rated as the most influential factor among the respondents from the general population (51%), those from Tel Aviv (59%), and those from Haifa (53%). All the preceding percentages are higher than the percentage recorded in Jerusalem.
Among the additional categories appearing in the survey, the one referred to as “providence” was prominent among respondents in Jerusalem, 21% of whom chose it as a decisive factor in determining a person’s status. This factor was chosen by 34% of Jewish respondents, and no fewer than 68% of respondents from among Jerusalem’s Haredi residents (and 64% of the Haredi respondents from across Israel). For comparison’s sake, in Tel Aviv and Haifa only 5% and 6% of respondents, respectively, indicated that providence has significance in the determination of an individual’s status in society.

Respondents were also asked about the impact of nationality on a person’s status. Among Jerusalem respondents, 16% chose nationality as a central factor influencing an individual’s status in society (as compared to 12% of respondents in Israel as a whole), while among the Jewish resident of the city, only 12% chose it as a decisive factor (as compared to 10% of the Jews in Israel). Among the Jerusalemite Arabs, 21% replied that it is a decisive factor (as compared to 18% of the Arab resident respondents in Israel as a whole).

Translated by Gilah Kahn-Hoffmann