Most Israelis now recognize Novy God, but still feel it’s not Israeli

Written by on January 1, 2021

While most Israelis now recognize the Russian Novy God holiday, over 70% still do not see it as part of Israeli culture.

A decorated spruce tree, traditional in the Novi God (New Year) celebration, seen at a Russian-Israeli home in Jerusalem, on January 1, 2016. Novigod is a Russian tradition of celebrating together with family on New Year's Eve, and new year's day. Novigod celebrations take after Christmas festive sy (photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)

A decorated spruce tree, traditional in the Novi God (New Year) celebration, seen at a Russian-Israeli home in Jerusalem, on January 1, 2016. Novigod is a Russian tradition of celebrating together with family on New Year’s Eve, and new year’s day. Novigod celebrations take after Christmas festive sy

(photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)

As Israel rings in the New Year, more citizens than ever will be aware that Russian-speaking Israelis are celebrating the night as Novy God, the Russian New Year’s celebration, according to a new survey published by the Israeli Congress and the Million Lobby on Thursday.

The majority (72%) of Israelis are familiar with Novy God, but 54% still do not perceive it as part of the general culture of the country and 23% do not think of it as an Israeli holiday at all, according to the survey.

While those not familiar with the holiday may think that the evergreen trees that pop up in many Russian-speaking Israeli homes are Christmas trees, the trees are actually there to mark Novy God in many cases. Russian-speaking families will host festive meals with traditional foods to mark the holiday as well. The holiday was especially enjoyed in Soviet Russia because it was the only secular holiday that wasn’t tied to the Communist party.

Despite the increase in awareness of the holiday, most Russian-speaking Israelis do not feel that they have adequate representation in the judiciary (79%), the media (71%), the government (70%) and the education system (42%).

The survey also found that over a quarter of Israelis think that Russian-speaking Israelis do not invest effort into integrating and 13% of Russian-speakers agree. Some 68% of Israelis think that the contribution of Russian speakers in Israel is not appreciated enough.

Over a third (36%) of Israelis think that a significant proportion of Russian speakers are not Jewish according to Jewish law (halacha) and about a quarter of Russian speakers agree with them.

Over a third of Israelis also think that there is a high percentage of alcoholics among Russian speakers and that the Russian-speaking public is arrogant, according to the survey.

While about half of Russian speakers responded that they give their children a rigid education, only 36% of the rest of the Israeli public agreed in the survey.

“Israeli society is made up of many sectors, groups and communities. This complexity is one of the things that makes us Israelis, but also one of the sources of various social disparities and challenges,” said Dr. Gilad Weiner, director-general of the Israeli Congress. “Towards the beginning of the new civil year, we chose to turn the spotlight on a group known by a number of names in Israel. It is sometimes called ‘Russian-speaking Israelis,’ sometimes ‘[immigrants from] the former Soviet Union,’ or even ‘Russians.’ In this poll, we wanted to find out how much the Israelis really know them.”

“It is exciting to see that today most of the State of Israel knows what Novy God is and recognizes the contribution of the Russian-speaking aliyah to the country,” said Alex Riff, director-general of the Million Lobby. “However, even though 30 years have passed, many stigmas still accompany us and Russian speakers are not adequately represented in most sectors of the Israeli economy.”

“It seems that there are more gaps between Russian speakers and the general population, so we actually set up the Million Lobby to fight for us to be equal citizens in Israel, and hopefully this picture will change in the coming years,” added Riff.

About 632 Israelis responded to the survey.

The Israeli Congress, a joint initiative of Bar Ilan University and the Menomadin Foundation made up of members of all parts of Israeli society, works to address the tension between the Jewish and democratic identities of the State of Israel.

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