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Despite a drop in the number of divorces in Israel last year, Israel has the eighth-highest divorce rate in the Western world, according to a study conducted by the New Family organization.
The number of divorces plummeted to 17,105 in 2005 from 25,445 in 2004, while the number of marriages - 57,170 in 2005 as opposed to 89,072 in 2004 - experienced a similar decrease. The end-of-year numbers were released by the Interior Ministry's Population Registry earlier this week.
The ministry also recorded 4,261 marriages performed abroad, less than the raw figure of 7,998 performed in 2004, but an increase of 1.5 percent as a proportion of all marriages registered with the Interior Ministry. All legally recognized marriages of Jews in Israel must be conducted by the Rabbinate, which conducts Orthodox ceremonies and won't marry Jews to those who are not Jewish according to Halacha. Couples who wed overseas avoid these restrictions.
"The falling divorce rate comes as a result of a continuing drop in the marriage rate. In the coming years we can expect [this trend] to continue," said Irit Rosenblum, chairwoman of New Family. "The world is undergoing a revolution in family and couplehood. More and more couples in Israel and in the world prefer to secure the nature of their relationship by legal contract and public knowledge, and are not married through formal processes by religious institutions."
But the Tzohar Forum of Rabbis rejected the claim that Israelis don't want to get married under Jewish law, attributing the problem to "bureaucracy" as well as the worldwide pattern of delaying marriage or never marrying at all.
"It's not from an alleged antagonism toward Judaism," the organization wrote in a statement following the publishing of the Interior Ministry's data. The group pointed to its own findings that 73% of the population indicated it would marry according to the Jewish faith.
Tzohar is dedicated to guiding secular Jews through life-cycle events and provides secular couples with free alternative marriage ceremonies that conform with Orthodox demands.
New Family is a humanitarian group dedicated to human rights within the family unit. It found that Israel's divorce rate of 26% comes eighth in a list topped by Russia (65% divorce rate) and the United States (49%).
In Israel, immigrants from the former Soviet Union divorce in greater numbers than any other sector of the Israeli pubic. Of women aged 50-54 from the FSU, 21% have been divorced, while only 16% of Israeli women in that age range have ended a marriage in divorce.
Tel Aviv, with one quarter of Israel's population, is home to 42.6% of the country's divorces.
Also according to the report, couples with a shared annual income of more than NIS 200,000 are 30% less like to split up than the general population.
The first four years of marriage are the most critical, with a divorce rate of 7-8% during this span, while the incidence of divorce drops to 4.5% in the fifth year, the study found.
Couples gave incompatibility as the most common reason they divorced (34%), followed by 18.5% who mentioned a loss of trust, generally attributed to infidelity. The remaining 34.5% divorced because of infertility, personal crises, illness and other reasons.
Joseph Flesh contributed to this report.