68% of Israelis support civil marriage, poll finds
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68% of Israelis support civil marriage, poll finds

Survey conducted by liberal Orthodox group shows widespread opposition to current religion-based laws, including from within religious community

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

An Israeli couple after a civil marriage in Cyprus. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
An Israeli couple after a civil marriage in Cyprus. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

A strong majority of Israelis back instituting civil marriage in Israel, with a quarter of those identifying as religious explicitly supporting civil ceremonies, a survey released on Wednesday found.

The poll, published by the Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah movement, an organization that seeks to promote moderate Orthodoxy in Israel, found that 68 percent of Israeli Jews support the legalization of civil marriage in the country and 80% believe that the current laws restricting marriage to state-recognized religious hierarchies push Israelis to marry outside the country.

Though same-sex marriage is not technically illegal, there is no Israeli institution authorized to carry it out. In a system inherited from Ottoman times, people can only marry in Israel 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 findings, which specifically focused on “the relationship between attitudes on religion and tradition and views regarding religion and state,” also suggested that religious observance and affinity for tradition do not necessarily mean support for restrictive religious laws.

Religious participants in the annual gay pride parade in Jerusalem, Sept. 18, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Religious participants in the annual gay pride parade in Jerusalem, Sept. 18, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Twenty-five percent of respondents who described themselves as “religious” said they supported civil marriage, with the figure jumping to 50% among those identified as “traditional.”

The study was conducted by the Rafi Smith polling institute for Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah and polled a total of 500 Israelis.

In January, Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah was one of a number of Israel-based groups awarded a grant by a consortium of North American Jewish federations to encourage Israelis to consider alternatives to marrying through the Chief Rabbinate.

The poll backs up findings from a number of recent polls showing a steady rise in support for civil marriages across various sectors of Israeli society.

Shmuel Shattach, director of Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah, said the survey “slaughters a number of sacred cows.”

“It proves once and for all that the objection to the current [situation] in the area of religion and state does not mean an objection to religion. On the contrary, many of those who care about religion are opposed to the current religious legislation, precisely because of this concern,” he said.

“It is time for Israeli politicians, including the religious ones, to finally begin reflecting the sentiments of many within Israeli society.”

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