Why are divorce rates rising among Israeli-Arab couples? - BGU study

The study, based on interviews with Israeli-Arab women, shows that a combination of higher education and joining the workforce have challenged the traditional marriage dynamic.

Dr Maha Karkabi-Sabbah
Divorce rates are climbing in Arab-Israeli society amid new possibilities that have opened up for Arab women. New research from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) shows a correlation between social change and divorce.
The Central Bureau of Statistics found that divorce rates have doubled over the last two decades.
An increasing number of Arab women with higher education have joined the workforce, resulting in later marriages, more women remaining single and a higher divorce rate, according to Dr. Maha Karkabi-Sabbah, working in the department of Sociology and Anthropology at Ben-Gurion University. Together with Professor Adital Ben-Ari, she interviewed 44 divorced Israeli-Arab women, to learn of the correlation between the two phenomena.
They found that statistics show that divorce is more common among couples who do not have a higher education, but when only the wife has a higher education and is able to command a higher paying job than her husband, it undermines the cultural role of the Arab man as the main provider of the family, the study showed.
When Arab women do decide to divorce, they are faced with a variety of social sanctions, the study found.
Many find it difficult to start the process because they fear the reaction of their community. This can cause them to stay in an abusive relationship, the researchers found.
Going through a divorce can turn into abuse in the form of a financial power hold – something which can also occur during the marriage but worsens if the couple divorces.
“He only paid alimony in the first year, afterwards he started doing all these different schemes so as to get out of it, but I was still so exhausted, I just wanted quiet and not to be dragged along to court and lawyers and so on, so I just gave up,” an anonymous Arab-Israeli woman told the researchers.
An additional social sanction many Arab women face is not being allowed to remarry.
Sabbah explained that when a woman requests a divorce she is accused of breaking up the family, and keeping it together is viewed as her main role.
For these reasons, divorce is viewed as a negative act. In addition, the Arab societal and cultural value of mastura (hidden) when used in relation to marriage, means not exposing a bad marriage by leaving it, the study explained.