May 14th, 2017
55% of the Jewish Israeli public and 81% of the secular Jewish Israeli public are interested in alternative marriages outside the auspices of Israel's Chief Rabbinate. This is the first time that a majority of the Jewish Israeli public has expressed a personal preference for marriages outside the Chief Rabbinate.
55% of the Jewish Israeli public is interested in the alternative of egalitarian Jewish marriages outside the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate, including 81% of secular Jewish Israelis. These are the findings of a survey conducted by the Smith Institute for Hiddush - for Religious Freedom in Israel, in advance of the Lag Ba'Omer holiday, which represents the beginning of the Jewish wedding season. The survey was conducted on April 19-20 among a representative sample of Israel's adult Jewish population.
This represents the first time that a majority of the Jewish Israeli public has expressed not only principled support for marriage freedom in Israel, but also personal interest in marriage outside the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate. A common argument heard in Israeli public discourse is that even if civil marriage and non-Orthodox Jewish marriage were instituted by the Government, there would not be much demand for them among the public. Now, it turns out that this assumption no longer reflects reality.
In the past, Hiddush measured support for the principle of freedom of choice in marriage and the implementation of civil marriage, as well as support for egalitarian Jewish wedding ceremonies. It is clear that a large majority of Jewish Israelis support changing the reality in Israel, which grants the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate exclusive jurisdiction over the marriages of Jews in Israel. (72% expressed support for the implementation of civil marriage and divorce in Israel in a September 2016 survey. 74% of respondents expressed an interest in having egalitarian Jewish wedding ceremonies for themselves and their children, which could include ring exchanges and wedding contracts that include equal responsibilities on the part of both partners.)
It is becoming increasingly clear that the battle for freedom of religion and equality in Israel is not only one of principle over the values of democracy and human rights, but actually a personal and existential battle. It is important that the State of Israel's leadership open their eyes and their hearts, and that they understand that the time has come to put an end to religious coercion and to allow every couple in Israel to marry in ceremonies that reflect their choices, their beliefs, and their ways of life.
The survey question was as follows: "The State of Israel today recognizes and registers only marriages of Jews that are conducted within the framework of the Chief Rabbinate. A number of movements and organizations offer an alternative of Jewish egalitarian marriages outside the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate, which grant couples many rights and responsibilities that the State recognizes, just as it does for couples that marry via the Chief Rabbinate. To what degree would you be interested in such an alternative for yourself or your children who intend to get married?"
55% were very interested (27%) or quite interested (28%) in such an alternative. This included 81% of secular Jewish Israelis, 61% of traditional Jewish Israelis (not so close to religion), 40% of traditional Jewish Israelis (close to religion), 13% of Zionist Orthodox Israelis, and 0% of ultra-Orthodox Israelis. This also included 75% of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, many of whom cannot legally marry in Israel at all, for the Rabbinate does not consider them Jewish. Among voters for the civil Government Coalition parties, 74% of Yisrael Beiteinu, 57% of Kulanu, and almost half of Likud voters expressed an interest in such a marriage alternative. Among voters for the Opposition parties, 85% of Zionist Union, 80% of Yesh Atid, and 87% of Meretz voters expressed their interest.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the battle for freedom of religion and equality in Israel is not only one of principle over the values of democracy and human rights, but actually a personal and existential battle.