NGO asks Knesset to require couples to take classes before getting married

"Our educational system prepares our children to find work and be employed, but for life’s greatest, most important issue."

November 8, 2017 21:15
2 minute read.
A MARRIAGE proposal.

A MARRIAGE proposal.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Pushing for state intervention to stem the growth in the number of divorces, NGO Together in Happiness led a Knesset meeting on Wednesday to promote legislation that would require betrothed couples to attend a pre-marriage course.

MKs Yehudah Glick (Likud), Yifat Shasha-Biton and Rachel Azaria, both from Kulanu, Michael Malkieli (Shas), and Hilik Bar (Zionist Union) attended the session, as did academics and public sector representatives.

The advocacy group pleaded its case that married couples are better off than those who are not, and that their children benefit significantly compared to those with divorced parents.

Susan Barth, the founder of Together in Happiness and a specialist in couples counseling, said in the meeting: “In 2016 divorces in Israel increased by 1.8% [over the previous year], with Jerusalem as the divorce capital of the country with 754 divorces and Tel Aviv with 701. We are losing the Jewish family.”

The majority of people attending the meeting were Orthodox Jews, but Glick, who is also Orthodox, said that premarital education is “not just for the religious, it’s for the secular, for the Left and the Right.”

He continued: “Our educational system prepares our children to find work and be employed, but for life’s greatest, most important issue of how to live and thrive with our spouses there is almost no education; this is why this initiative is so critical.”

Prof. Howard Markman, from the University of Denver’s Center for Marital and Family Studies, cited his research to demonstrate the advantages of learning how to be married.

“Married people are healthier and more productive and for children there are fewer health and emotional risks involved,” he said.

Emphasizing the importance of the proposed courses, he told the group: “Marriage counseling is okay, but pre-marriage education is better.

“For each dollar invested in premarital education, $80 will be saved in the future in divorce damages,” Markman said.

Malkieli said he and his wife were required to attend a course before their wedding.

He insisted on the implementation of this initiative, citing data he found by analyzing the state budget and pointing out the financial advantages of premarital classes.

“NIS 2 billion a year goes toward divorced families from the social welfare budget. The investment the state makes in single parent families is huge, and it’s difficult to get an exact total number because other ministries also allocate money for things like education et cetera; this [initiative] will be worthwhile economically.”

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