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The latest report published by New Family notes a 35% decrease in marriage rates in 2005 compared with 2004 - down from 40,537 to 26,454 marriages.
In honor of Family Day, which is being marked on Tuesday, both New Family - an organization devoted to the advancement of family rights - and the Central Bureau of Statistics have come out with new data concerning the makeup of Israeli families - defined as two or more people living in the same household as partners or as parents with children.
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In 2004, there were 1.6 million families in Israel who fit this definition, each averaging 3.7 people. Of these, 82% were Jewish and 16% were Arab. Half of all families were composed of parents with children under the age of 18.
The number of single-parent families is growing 1.8 times faster than other families. In 2004, they numbered 103,000, totaling 6.4% of all families.
While 73% of families in the Arab sector are composed of two parents and their children, only 46% of Jewish families follow this pattern - 26% of them do not have children, and 13% have only one parent. In contrast with 4.9 people in the average Arab family, the average Jewish family has 3.5 members.
According to the statistics compiled by New Family, 5% of all couples in Israel in 2005 were haredi, 3% were married in a civil ceremony, 5% were not married, 10% were married to members of other religions, 1% were of the same sex, 2% were foreign workers, and 14% were non-Jews. The New Family report also noted a decrease in civil marriages and a significant rise in alternative forms of marriage - such as Reform religious ceremonies or family contracts. A startling 17% of all marriages still take place between underage couples, mostly in families originating from the Caucasus and of Moroccan descent, as well as among Muslims, Druse, Beduin and haredim.
There are 18,000 families composed of same-sex couples. In lesbian households, 30% of couples are raising children, compared with 20% of male homosexual couples.
Rosenblum said the issue of family rights was largely ignored in Israeli society and during national elections, compared to the central place it occupied in election campaigns in other countries. She also noted that in Israel the dramatic decrease in marriage rates in the past year is indicative of a growing disavowal among Israeli couples of institutionally sanctioned marriage, which many feel is imposed upon them by the state for lack of alternatives. The decrease in divorce rates, she said, was similarly an indication of the legal and economic difficulties faced by partners who wish to divorce, leading to an increase in couples who separate without getting legally divorced.
While she praised the growing freedom in Israel enjoyed by same-sex families, Rosenblum sharply criticized the treatment of families of foreign workers.
"The basic right called family is being denied to an entire population - it's a real and cruel drama that prevents them from living like human beings, and it is an unacceptable form of behavior, unworthy of the Jewish people," she said, referring to cases in which, for example, a father is deported while his wife and children remain behind.
"People here need to understand that if we fight for a sane individual existence and individual rights, Israeli society and the Israeli state will also benefit," she said. "It's time for us to wake up and start singing to a different tune."
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