Feb 27th, 2018
69% of the Israeli public supports revoking the monopoly of the rabbinical courts on Jewish personal status matters, supports the establishment of a parallel civil system, and supports alternative, lenient rabbinic courts as a solution to alleviate the phenomenon of agunot
This is a strong expression of distrust in the Orthodox monopoly. International Agunah Day reminds us of the urgent need to dismantle the Orthodox monopoly on marriage and divorce in Israel.
The Rabbinate's monopoly over Jewish divorce is the main reason for the tragedy of the agunot, and canceling it is the main key to easing the suffering of agunot all over Israel. The just solution, which most of the public supports, is the creation of parallel channels. Couples must be legally permitted to have civil marriages and divorces through Israel's family courts, and Orthodox families should be allowed to choose lenient rabbinic courts, which are not necessarily part of the apparatus controlled by the ultra-Orthodox political parties.
The poll represents a strong vote of no confidence in the Orthodox monopoly over the divorce, and supports the results of previous surveys that have showed that the Israeli public supports freedom of choice in marriage. The public is fed up with the Israeli system of rabbinical courts that discriminates against women, anchors them in loveless marriages, and empowers their husbands to blackmail them. Throughout the years, Israel's governments have sold off the public's freedom of marriage for a cheap mess of political porridge. As long as there are no civil marriages and divorces in Israel, as most of the public wants and as all other Western democracies permit, Israel will remain the among the worst in the world in this arena.
This survey was conducted by the Smith Polling Institute, commissioned by Hiddush for Freedom of Religion and Equality, in advance of International Agunah Day, which falls annually on the Fast of Esther. The telephone survey was conducted between February 15-18, 2018 among a sample of 500 people representing the adult Jewish Israeli population, aged 18 and over.
As age rises, support for revoking the rabbinic courts' monopoly over Jewish divorce and marriage increases. Among those aged 18-29, 56% support revoking it. Among those aged 30-49, 69% support this, and among those aged 50 and over, support rises to 75%. The gap in support between young people and older respondents stems from the fact that among young people, the percentage of ultra-Orthodox Israelis is larger.
Among the voters for the four non-Haredi Coalition parties: Likud, Jewish Home, Kulanu, and Yisrael Beiteinu, a majority supports the cancellation of the rabbinic monopoly.
(Up to age 29: 15% are ultra-Orthodox, 18% are Zionist Orthodox, 16% are traditional-religious, 11% are traditional-not so religious, and 40% are secular. Among adults over the age of 50: 6% are ultra-Orthodox, 10% are Zionist Orthodox, 16% are traditional-religious, 16% are traditional-not religious, and 52% are secular.)
Country of Origin
Among immigrants to Israel, 88% support canceling the monopoly.
Level of religiosity
100% of ultra-Orthodox Israelis prefer the current situation. The Zionist Orthodox public is more diverse. 79% prefer the current situation, following the Rabbinate's rabbinical courts, but a considerable minority of 21% supports revoking this religious monopoly in order to alleviate the agunot problem.
Among the traditional-religious public and among the traditional-not so religious public, a majority supports abolishing the monopoly of the rabbinic courts - 61% and 81%, respectively. Among the secular Jewish public, 94% support revoking the monopoly. The data indicate that even among the Zionist Orthodox public there is a significant percentage that does not support the continuation of the relationship between religion and state in its current form.
The survey also shows that the higher the level of one's education, the greater the likelihood that one supports canceling the monopoly. 77% of those with a university education support canceling the monopoly, compared with 57% of those with a high school education or less.
Votes in the 2015 Knesset elections
Among the voters for the four non-Haredi Coalition parties: Likud, Jewish Home, Kulanu, and Yisrael Beiteinu, a majority supports the cancellation of the rabbinic monopoly. 66% of Likud voters, 52% of Jewish Home voters, 88% of Kulanu voters, and 95% of Yisrael Beiteinu voters support revoking the Rabbinate's monopoly. Among voters for the opposition parties, support for abolishing the Orthodox religious monopoly is predictably the highest.