to break the law. Professor Yosef
Yahav, head of the Central Bu-
reau of Statistics, which is con-
ducting the census, said that had
he known in advance of the right-
wing boycott, he would have put
off the census until after the Oc-
tober 1996 elections.
Haredi (01thodox) Jews have
always had problems with the
census, and many boycotted ear-
lier ones on the instructions of
their rabbis. "It says in the
Gemara that the counting of
Jews brought troubles onto the
people," explained Rabbi Yosef
Sheinberger, secretary of the Eda
Haredit, the anti-Zionist rab-
binical authority widely accept-
ed in the haredi world.
To answer haredi complaints,
and to bring the Israeli census in
line with those in other countries,
the 1995 questionnaire for the
first time will not ask the re-
spondent's religion. Satisfied, a
couple of prominent haredi rab-
bis ruled that it was now per-
missible to fill in the form.
But the Eda Haredit is not lift-
ing its boycott, as it still consid-
ers the census a counting of the
Jews, Mr. Sheinberger said. Be-
sides, he added, "We don't want
to be connected with the actions
of the Jewish State."
Then there is the question of
the census' treatment of homo-
sexual couples. Mr. Rosen ex-
plained that this controversy
began recently when Israeli gay
activists triumphantly told the
media that homosexuals living
together would be listed in the
census as a couple, just like het-
The highly influential Rabbi
Mordechai Eliahu, former Chief
Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, was
livid. He called for a boycott of the
census. "This is a very grave mat-
ter that can cause damage to the
Jewish People," he said.
A weary-sounding Mr. Rosen
explained that the questionnaire
does not ask the respondent's
marital status at all. Spouses and
live-in lovers, she said, are listed
equally in the census under a He-
brew term that translates loose-
ly as "partners," or, to be
culturally correct, "significant
others." "We don't check what
kind of relationship people have,"
she continued. "You can be mar-
ried, unmarried, heterosexual,
homosexual or a bigamist with
12 wives, and it will make no dif-
ference to us."
The results of the census,
which is costing the government
$50 million, should be out in a
year. Mr. Rosen says she doesn't
expect the boycott to win wide
enough support to significantly
affect the findings. But if the cen-
sus comes up with an impossibly
low count of residents this coun-
try — especially in Jerusalem,
Bnei Brak and the West Bank
settlements — it will not take a
team of statisticians to know the
reason why. ❑
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