Public unaware that civil divorce unavailable in Israel poll finds

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2013, 8,939 marriages were conducted abroad with at least one Israeli spouse were registered in Israel.

May 26, 2016 17:48
2 minute read.

Divorce. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)


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A new poll published on Thursday shows that Jewish Israelis are largely unaware that even if someone marries in a civil ceremony abroad, they still must get divorced through the rabbinical courts in Israel.

The poll, conducted for the Hiddush religious pluralism lobbying group by the Smith Polling Institute, also showed that 59 percent of the Jewish population believe there are far fewer Israeli citizens who are unable to get married in the country than the true figure.

“This survey reveals a lack of knowledge that empowers and emboldens the ultra-Orthodox political parties and rabbinical establishment to maintain their monopolistic stranglehold on marriages and divorces in Israel with full collaboration from the Israeli political Right and Left, which continue to prefer selling off these basic civil liberties for political spoils,” said Hiddush director Rabbi Uri Regev.

The survey, conducted May 19 on a sample of 500 Jewish Israelis, has a margin of error of 4.5%.

According to the poll, 64% of the Jewish public does not know that, if necessary, someone who marries in a civil ceremony abroad will need to divorce in the rabbinical courts here.

Under Israeli law, the Chief Rabbinate has exclusive jurisdiction over Jewish marriage and divorce in the country, meaning that there is no option for civil marriage.

While, civil marriages conducted abroad are recognized by the state, if both spouses are Jewish, the rabbinical courts have jurisdiction over any divorce.

A couple that married in a civil ceremony abroad in which one partner is Jewish and other is not, theoretically can have their marriage annulled by the family court, but it is a complicated, expensive and lengthy process, and available only when there is consent to divorce between the parties.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2013, 8,939 marriages were conducted abroad were registered in Israel including those in which just one spouse was Israeli or Jewish and those in which both spouses were Jewish.

All of these people, should they want to divorce, experience difficulties doing so in Israel; those in which both spouses are Jewish definitely must divorce through the rabbinical courts regardless of whether or not they married in a civil ceremony.

A large proportion of Israelis marrying abroad are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, or their children, who are not Jewish according to Jewish law.

Some 350,000 Israelis termed “without religion” who cannot marry or divorce in Israel, fall into this category.

According to the Hiddush poll, just 27% of respondents were aware of the size of the “without religion” population.

Some 59% of respondents thought the number was much smaller, while 14% thought there were half a million with such status

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