Jewish divorces in Israel up 5% in 2018, with 86% increase in one town

Over 11,000 couples formally end their marriages; statistics don’t cover divorces for non-Jews or Jewish citizens who got hitched in civil ceremonies abroad

Illustrative: A Jewish couple getting married. (Justin Oberman/Creative Commons)
Illustrative: A Jewish couple getting married. (Justin Oberman/Creative Commons)

The divorce rate among Israeli Jews rose five percent in 2018, with just over 11,000 couples untying the knot, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Chief Rabbinate.

Divorce statistics, with the exception of 2017, have been on an upward trend over the past five years, the data showed. In 2018, 11,145 couples divorced via the Jewish religious courts, compared to 10,661 in 2017.

Because the rabbinate oversees marriage for Jewish citizens who undertook Orthodox weddings only, the statistics do not cover divorces for non-Jews in Israel or Jewish citizens who married in civil ceremonies abroad.

According to the figures, the largest percentage increase in couples divorcing was seen in the central town of Gedera, which saw a whopping rise of 86 percent in the number of couples uncoupling — 28 couples divorced there in 2017 compared to 52 in 2018.

Illustrative: Hasidic Jewish men celebrating a wedding in Israel, where marriage and divorce is legally under the authority of the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate. (Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)

The greatest drop in the number of couples divorcing was seen in the ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit, down 49%.

According to the figures, there was a 16% increase in the divorce rate in Tel Aviv compared to 2017, and a decrease of 7% in Jerusalem.

The rabbinate’s statistics showed that 149 women whose husbands had refused to grant them a divorce and disappeared in Israel or abroad had finally received the paperwork allowing them to remarry.

The report also showed a 25% drop in the number of requests for permits to be released from a marriage with a recalcitrant spouse, without offering an explanation for the number.

The branch of the rabbinate that deals with those who refuse to grant a divorce issued 156 restraining orders — 117 against men and 39 against women — including orders preventing travel abroad, restricting access to a bank account and revoking a driver’s license. Sanctions can be imposed on a woman who refuses to accept a divorce.

Illustrative: The building of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel in Jerusalem. (Flash90)

Under millennia-old Jewish law, only the husband may formally dissolve a marriage. In Israel, where all divorces are subject to religious law, this norm has left hundreds of women in legal limbo due to husbands who refuse to grant divorces.

Rabbinical courts cannot force a man to give his wife a get, or writ of divorce, but in Israel they can impose harsh sanctions, including the rare jail sentence without charge and public shaming of a man whom judges determine is unjustly withholding a get and turning the woman into what is known as an agunah, or “chained” woman.

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