Feb 14th, 2016
Not only is the denial of the freedom to marry antithetical to core democratic principles, but it also undermines Jewish interests. 71% of the Israeli Jewish public maintain that the Chief Rabbinate's and the rabbinical courts' monopoly over marriage and divorce distances Jews from Judaism.
84% of the Jewish public in Israel believes that every Israeli citizen should have “the right to found a family in Israel with whomever they want, in whatever manner they want, and according to their beliefs.” All successive Israeli governments have denied the public the basic rights to freedom of marriage and family. It’s time for love and civil liberties to prevail, and for Israeli politicians to heed the public will.
Not only is the denial of the freedom to marry antithetical to core democratic principles, but it also undermines Jewish interests. 71% of the Israeli Jewish public, including 59% of the Orthodox Jewish Home party’s voters, maintain that the Chief Rabbinate's and the rabbinical courts' monopoly over marriage and divorce distances Jews from Judaism. Only 29% believe it brings Jews closer to their Jewish heritage.
In this Hiddush special Valentine’s Day poll, held shortly after the Western Wall agreement was signed, 61% of the Israeli Jewish public, nearly two-thirds, expressed support for official State recognition of Reform and Conservative marriages. Only 33% support the current Orthodox rabbinic monopoly over marriage of all Jews in Israel, while 67% want the State to recognize alternatives to the Orthodox monopoly.
Israel prides itself for being an advanced Western democracy, but in regard to the basic human right to marry the person you love, it is closer to those states governed by Sharia law. It is the only Western democracy in the world that denies its citizens marriage freedom. More than 600,000 citizens are unable to marry in Israel at all, and millions more can only get legally married or divorced in religious ceremonies that are contrary to their religious/secular outlooks and lifestyles. Rather than strengthening Judaism in the Jewish state, the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly and the unholy alliance of religion and politics only serve to distance Jews from Judaism.
The survey once again highlights the tremendous divide between the public's desire for marriage and divorce freedom, and the political system, which ignores the public's will, empowering and perpetuating the Rabbinate's monopoly over these matters. There's no doubt that the Rabbinate and the rabbinical courts are the greatest enemies of Judaism in our time. However, all successive Israeli governments are no less culpable for collaborating with the Rabbinate and the religious parties to deny the public its basic right to marriage and love.
This public opinion survey was conducted by the Rafi Smith Polling Institute for Hiddush - Freedom of Religion in Israel ahead of Valentine’s Day (the international holiday of love on February 14th). It was conducted by telephone on February 4th, among 500 adult Israelis, a representative sample of the adult Jewish population. This survey was conducted with generous support from IREP - the Israel Religious Expression Platform.
Additional poll highlights:
91% of secular Israeli Jews and 81% of immigrants from the former Soviet Union feel that the Rabbinate's and the rabbinical courts' control over marriage and divorce in Israel alienates Jews from Judaism. On the other hand, 100% of ultra-Orthodox respondents said that the Rabbinate's monopoly brings Jews closer to their Jewish heritage. Among those who believe the monopoly on marriage and divorce distances Jews from Judaism are: 100% of Kulanu, Yisrael Beiteinu and Meretz voters, 96% of Yesh Atid voters, and 87% of voters for the Zionist Camp. 54% of Likud voters and 59% of Jewish Home voters also agree that Jews are distanced from Judaism by the Chief Rabbinate's control over these basic human rights.
84% of the Israeli Jewish public believes that every resident of Israel should have “the right to start a family in Israel with whomever they wish, in whatever way they prefer, and in whatever manner best suits their beliefs.” Only 16% oppose this. Among those who identify as left-leaning, 100% support the right to choose how one establishes a family. Among those who identify as centrists, 90% support this basic right, as do 70% of right-leaning voters. 93% of secular Israeli Jews support the right to establish a family with one's partner of choice in a way that befits one's beliefs, as do 75% of ultra-Orthodox Jews. The lowest level of support for this human right came from the Zionist Orthodox community - only 61%.
It's is quite possible that respondents from the ultra-Orthodox and Zionist Orthodox communities interpreted “family” only in relation to Jews, and only in relation to heterosexual marriage. Should the language of the law be sharpened to allow for religious intermarriage and same-sex marriage, this might well lower the support among the Israeli Jewish population from 84% to something like 70%, which is the general level of support for marriage freedom in Israel.
67% of the Jewish public in Israel, two-thirds, support the State of Israel allowing young couples to choose alternative wedding ceremonies outside of the Rabbinate. 60% support recognition of civil, Reform and Conservative marriages, in addition to marriages conducted by the Chief Rabbinate.
1% support only recognizing marriages performed by the liberal religious streams (i.e., support for recognition of Reform and Conservative marriages stands at 61%). 6% support only recognizing civil marriages (i.e. a total of 66% support).
Only 33% of the Jewish public support perpetuating the existing legal framework for marriage and divorce, in which the State of Israel only recognizes marriages conducted under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate. Among secular Jews, 92% support the creation of marriage alternatives outside of the Rabbinate, as do 88% of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, but 90% of ultra-Orthodox Jews oppose this proposal. 21% of those who identify as “religious” support State recognition of Reform, Conservative and civil marriages.
There's no doubt that the Rabbinate and the rabbinical courts are the greatest enemies of Judaism in our time. However, all successive Israeli governments are no less culpable for collaborating with the Rabbinate and the religious parties to deny the public its basic right to marriage and love.