, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 67-84
Date: 19 Jan 2012

Understanding Young Adult Attachment to Israel: Period, Lifecycle and Generational Dynamics

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Abstract

Social scientists who study contemporary Jewry are engaged in an intense debate over trends in American Jewish attachment to Israel. The dominant view has been that age-related differences reported in surveys indicate intergenerational decline, with successive birth cohorts less emotionally attached to Israel than their predecessors. An alternative view has been that age-related differences reflect stages of the lifecycle, with members of each birth cohort becoming more emotionally attached to Israel as they grow older. Drawing on evidence from four sets of surveys administered to comparable samples at ten-year intervals, the present paper weighs the evidence for the “generational” versus “lifecycle” hypotheses about the nature of changes in attachment. The findings indicate that, across the four sets of surveys, emotional attachment increased between Time 1 (the first survey, administered in the 1990s) and Time 2 (the second survey, administered in the 2000s). The increases were for respondents as a whole as well as most age cohorts. In each of the four surveys sets, the largest increases occurred as respondents transitioned from their 30s to their 40s, i.e., from young adulthood to mature adulthood. Although increasing attachment to Israel throughout the period as a whole complicates the analysis, we conclude that the preponderance of evidence supports the view that emotional attachment to Israel increased over the lifecourse rather than declined across the generations. That said, future trends may be influenced by new dynamics including increased intermarriage, more widespread Israel travel, and a highly fluid political situation.