A poll released Wednesday to mark the upcoming Lag B’Omer holiday indicates that a majority of Jewish Israelis are personally interested in marrying outside the auspices of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, which holds a monopoly over Jewish marriages in the country.
In the survey conducted by Hiddush, an Israeli organization that aims to advance religious pluralism, respondents were asked to answer the question: “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?”
According to the survey, 55 percent of respondents said they would be interested in such an option, including 81% of secular Israelis, but dropping precipitously to 13% for religious-Zionist and 0% for ultra-Orthodox.
Hiddush said it was the first time that a majority of Jewish respondents said they were interested in an alternative to marriage via the Chief Rabbinate.
Rabbi Uri Regev, who heads Hiddush, said the poll results show that Israel must end the “religious coercion” of the rabbinate’s monopoly over marriage.
“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,” he said.
In Israel, only Orthodox ceremonies are recognized. This also impacts interfaith and same-sex marriages. Those who wish to marry or divorce outside the faith are forced to travel overseas for a civil ceremony, with nearby Cyprus one of the most popular options. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis live in a parallel but unofficial common-law relationship, called yeduim betzibur in Hebrew, that has won recognition in the courts and confers some marital rights such as inheritance and joint custody of children.
In addition to religious identification, the poll also divided respondents by political party affiliation.
Over 80% of respondents who voted for the Meretz, Zionist Union and Yesh Atid parties said they were in favor of the option, while 74% of Yisrael Beytenu supporters said they were as well. Yisrael Beytenu counts among its supporters a large number of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, many of whom are considered insufficiently Jewish and and are therefore unable to marry in Israel under the Chief Rabbinate.
Kulanu and Likud voters backed the idea by 57% and 47% respectively, while only 36% of supporters of the religious-nationalist Jewish Home party said they were in favor.
No supporters of the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties said they were in favor, according to the survey.
The poll was conducted among a “representative sample” of Jewish adults in Israel on April 19-20 by the Smith Institute ahead of the Lag B’Omer holiday, which begins on Saturday night and traditionally marks the start of the Jewish wedding season.