A special report
Hiddush's 2016 findings and data on marriage
In the past year, Hiddush focused on the battle for marriage freedom in Israel as our leading cause, conducting a comprehensive series of surveys and studies that highlighted a clear trend: the Israeli Jewish public supports marriage freedom.
Israel of 2016 remains the only Western democracy that denies its citizens the fundamental right to get married. In the past year, Hiddush focused on the battle for marriage freedom in Israel as our leading cause. In addition to Hiddush's unique World Map of Marriage Freedom, which enables viewers to compare Israel's marriage laws to the rest of the world's, Hiddush also conducted a comprehensive series of surveys and studies that highlighted a clear trend: the Israeli Jewish public supports marriage freedom. The broad support for alternatives to the Chief Rabbinate's Orthodox coercive religious monopoly, and the broad disgust with the rabbinical courts on matters of marriage & divorce could not be clearer.
93 countries (48%) received a score of 2 (full marriage freedom) on the World Map of Marriage Freedom. Only 45 countries (23%), including mostly Muslim countries and the State of Israel, received a score of 0, indicating severe restrictions on marriage freedom. According to Hiddush's analysis, some 666,000 Israeli citizens cannot get married in Israel. Of these, 364,000 are immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are classified by the Interior Ministry as "having no religion," ~5,000 are classified as "forbidden to marry," 13,000 are non-Orthodox converts, and 284,000 are member of the LGBTQ community. Additional populations that suffer from official State marriage restrictions include 269,000 divorcees (who are forbidden from marrying men of priestly lineage), 50,000 female converts (who are forbidden from marrying men of priestly lineage), 80,000 men of priestly lineage (who are forbidden from marrying converts and divorcees).
A survey that examined which tensions in the religion & state arena are the most severe in the eyes of the Israeli public found that 71% of Israeli Jews consider the controversial issue of marriage & divorce and the Chief Rabbinate's monopoly over these matters to be either the most important or second most important such conflict; far more than any other dispute in the religion & state arena. It seems that the rabbinic establishment turns Israeli couples off to marriage, for the process through the rabbinical courts is so arduous, and many fear ceding their divorce freedom to the whims of the rabbinical courts. Ironically, the Chief Rabbinate is responsible for the increasing erosion of the institution of family in Israel. According to a Hiddush study: the number of unmarried couples in Israel building their lives and families together rose by 28% over two years and now stands at some 20,000 couples. At the same time, the number of Jewish marriages conducted in Israel in 2014 (the last year for which data is available) dropped by 6.5% to its level at the beginning of the decade.
The rabbinic establishment turns Israeli couples off to marriage, for the process through the rabbinical courts is so arduous, and many fear ceding their divorce freedom to the whims of the rabbinical courts.
In 2016 the Smith Polling Institute conducted a number of surveys for Hiddush, examining the adult Jewish population's positions on matters of marriage freedom. Here are the main findings:
International Valentine's Day Survey
- 71% of the Jewish Israeli population believe the Chief Rabbinate's and rabbinical courts' coercive control over Jewish marriage and divorce distances Jews from Judaism.
- 84% believe that all Israeli citizens should have the right to start a family in the State of Israel with whomever they choose, and in accordance with their beliefs.
- 61% support the State of Israel permitting couples to marry in Conservative and Reform wedding ceremonies that are officially recognized by the State.
Survey marking International Agunah Day
- 75% of Jewish Israelis support the implementation of civil divorce in Israel.
- 69% of respondents do not trust the State rabbinical courts.
Survey marking Lag B'Omer
- 64% (nearly two-thirds) of Jewish Israelis are unaware that Jewish couples who get married in civil ceremonies abroad are still required to get divorced through the State rabbinical courts.
- 73% are unaware of how many immigrants to Israel are defined as non-Jews by the Chief Rabbinate and therefore cannot marry in Israel (more than 350,000)
Survey for Pride Month
- 76% of respondents believe Israel should allow same-sex couples to get married (64%) or enter into civil unions (12%).
- According to the World Map of Marriage Freedom, 42 countries permit the foundational right of partnership for same-sex couples.
Survey marking Tu B'Av
- 74% would like to have egalitarian wedding ceremonies for themselves and their children, including egalitarian exchanges of wedding rings and wedding contracts outlining obligations for both spouses.
The 2016 Israel Religion & State Index
The marriage chapter of the Religion & State Index highlights a dramatic increase in the number of Jewish Israelis who would prefer not to have Orthodox weddings for themselves or their children - up from 37% in 2015 to 47% this year. 78% (4 in 5) of secular Jews would prefer not to have Orthodox weddings. This is assuming that all forms of marriage were recognized by Israeli law.