A poll released Tuesday to mark Valentine’s Day indicates that 72 percent of Jewish Israelis support civil marriage and 76% of Arab Israelis favor marriage freedom in Israel, where citizens cannot legally marry outside their faith.
Both Jewish and Arab Israelis overwhelmingly supported the statement that “every resident of Israel has the right to get married in Israel with whomever he chooses, in whatever way he chooses, and according to his beliefs.” according to Hiddush, an Israeli organization that aims to advance religious pluralism.
According to the survey, 72% of Jewish Israelis and 76% of Arab Israelis support the statement. Among Jews 95% of secular Jewish Israelis support this statement, as do 67% of traditional Jewish Israelis, the statement said.
Among the Arab community, 71% of Christians, 76% of Druze, and 79% of Muslims agreed with the statement.
However, opinions diverged on the need for civil marriage and divorce, which is not currently allowed in Israel.
Here, 72% of the Jewish community support civil ceremonies, while only 43% of Arabs want to see nonreligious marriage ceremonies.
“The data once again prove that the policy of many successive Israeli governments goes directly against the will of the public, which supports allowing all people to express their love in marriages of their choosing, as well as the elimination of religious coercion in marriage and divorce in Israel,” said Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev.
Israeli marriages are performed under laws inherited from Ottoman times. Citizens may only marry through their religious institutions: Jewish couples must marry through the Chief Rabbinate, and Christians, Druze and Muslims all marry through their own state-sanctioned and publicly funded religious systems.
The result: any couple whose marriage is not in keeping with the religious law of their respective religions, or which belongs to a religious tradition that does not have its own state hierarchy, simply falls outside the boundaries of marriages recognized by the Israeli state.
Among Jews, 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.
Although the numbers show a discrepancy in views on civil marriage between Jews and Arabs, the responses within the Arab sector differ by generation. Some 60% of respondents between the ages of 25 and 34 support the institution of civil marriage and divorce, compared to only 27% of Arabs ages 65 and older.
Respondents to the Hiddush poll were also divided by political party affiliation, where 72% of ruling faction Likud voters supported the enactment of civil marriage and divorce in Israel. Kulanu and Yisrael Beytenu voters favored the measure in even higher numbers, while just 11% and 8% of Shas and United Torah Judaism voters, respectively, backed the idea.
According to the statement the two surveys were conducted in parallel — one in the Jewish sector and one in the Arab sector. The survey of Jewish Israelis was conducted by the Smith Institute on September 27, 2016 among a representative sample of 500 adult Jewish Israelis. The survey of Arab Israelis was conducted by the Yafa Institute on October 1-5, 2016 among a representative sample of 512 adult Arab Israelis.
This is the first time the Arab community’s positions on marriage and divorce freedom and related matters have been surveyed, the statement said.