The Religious Services Ministry, which has oversight for marriage in Israel,
issued a statement on Monday claiming that statistics released on the same day
disproved the claims of marriage reform advocates, such as the
national-religious Tzohar organization, that significant numbers of Jewish
couples are getting civil marriages abroad instead of marrying according to
The Central Bureau of Statistics figures showed that 9,262
marriages that took place abroad were reported to the Interior Ministry in
Some 1,533 of those marriages were of couples in which both spouses
were Jewish. 797 of those couples, totaling 52 percent of the marriages, were
conducted in Cyprus or the Czech Republic, representing 2.2% of the total number
of Jewish marriages conducted in 2010.
The remainder of the 1,533 Jewish
couples that got married abroad in 2010 wed in the US, Canada, France, the
states of the former Soviet Union, the UK and Australia.
says that Jewish couples marrying in these countries marry in Jewish, rather
than civil, ceremonies.
Organizations such as Tzohar are concerned about
the number of Israelis marrying abroad, and point to the fact that if one
subtracts the estimated 10,000 religious weddings from the 35,887 Jewish
weddings, then the number of secular Israelis marrying abroad is 25% of the
total number of secular weddings.
The Religious Services Ministry is only
concerned with marriages involving two Jewish spouses.
pointed out that, out of the 9,262 weddings conducted abroad that were reported
in 2010, 4,677 were of couples where one spouse is Jewish and the other spouse
is not registered in the population registry.
The organization claims
that many of the non-registered spouses of these couples are in fact Jewish but
cannot prove their Jewish ancestry because many of them come from the former
Soviet Union, where the relevant documentation is not available.
said that the fact that over 8,000 mixed marriages were conducted abroad
represented a catastrophe for the future of the Jewish people, and claimed that
the high figures were due to the ministry’s lack of a process for clarifying a
person’s Jewish status.
“The Religious Services Ministry prefers to turn
those [Israelis] who immigrated from abroad and need to clarify their Jewish
status in a stroke of the keyboard into non-Jews,” Tzohar said in a statement.
“A short clarification process would reveal that the great majority of them are
Of the 9,262 marriages abroad recorded in 2010, only a
third actually took place that year, with a quarter taking place in 2009 and
only reported in 2010, another quarter took place between 2003-2008 and the
remainder before 2003.
The CBS stated that it therefore expected more
marriages conducted abroad to be added to the tally for 2010 in coming years,
and estimated that the total number of marriages that took place in 2010 will be
There are several reasons why people go abroad to
Some couples do not belong to the same faith, which makes it
impossible for them to get married in Israel since there is no framework for
civil marriage for such couples.
Others cannot sufficiently prove they
are Jewish to the rabbinical courts, while some simply prefer not to negotiate
the bureaucracy of the rabbinate and the marriage registration process that is
frequently described as a negative experience by those wishing to
Inside Israel, 47,855 Israeli couples got married in 2010, of
which 35,887 were Jewish, 10,220 were Muslim and the remainder were Christian or
Some 73% of citizens getting married outside of Israel who
reported their weddings to the Interior Ministry in 2010 were Jewish; 25% were
defined as “other,” mostly comprising those without religious classification, a
group that mainly consists of people who are descendants of Jews from the former
Soviet Union but who are not Jewish according to Jewish law; and 2% were Arab
Of the total number of weddings conducted abroad, 22% took
place in the US, 17% in Cyprus, 17% in the former Soviet Union, 15% in the Czech
Republic, 4% in Canada and 3% in other countries.
The director of the
Religious Services Ministry, Avigdor Ohana, said that the ministry has conducted
a comprehensive reorganization, including the drafting of a service agreement,
courses in customer and public service and the establishment of a call center to
improve the experience of people wishing to register for marriage in the
“The state religious services are on the rise in terms of
improvements to the service, quality of service, access and professionalism,”