As the average age of unmarried people in Israel is rising, both in the religious and secular sectors, concern among religious leaders is growing. They warn that this phenomenon could have a devastating effect on the national-religious society.
"The national-religious society is losing the battle of marrying off its children. We are losing the best of our children," stated Israel Ze’ira, head of the Rosh Yehudi Center.
In a bid to remedy the situation, the center is organizing a weekend seminar for religious male and female singles who are well over the age of 20 or approaching 40.
Participants will attend workshops and classes on interpersonal communication, coordinating expectations and relationships.
"The national religious society is plagued with late marriages just like the secular society," Ze'ira told Ynet. "This has a dramatic effect on the national religious society as a whole. Late marriages lead to secularization, because Western life is riddled with temptations. How long can you ask a bachelor to keep his purity for?
"The situation is that those who are not married make up for this in other ways, and this undermines religion," he explained.
So, this a problem is a national one?
"It affects both the social and personal level. A person who lives alone for many years gets worn out emotionally, mentally and spiritually, and this isn't healthy. You get used to living an egocentric life that involves less giving, and you become cynical.
"It also affects birth rates. What happens is that you skip a generation. If in the past people used to get married at 22 and become grandparents when they were 45, today people marry at 35 and only become grandparents when they're 70."
How did this happen?
"A lack of education and lack of guidance. We should be educating for marriage at a young age, 20-22. People still get proposals when they're 38, but then you have emotional complexes that are hard to deal with… they need to be provided with the tight tools. Teach them how to communicate, give courses, workshops and psychological counseling. We need a whole system to deal with this."
Rabbi Benny Wartzman, one of the lecturers at the weekend workshop, said that older singles need to take responsibility. "We live at a time in which personal development has become very prominent. People want to get a first and second degree, a career and perhaps even a house before they get married. But a person needs to prioritize things according to their importance and understand that life demand sacrifices.
"People want to have everything, but they must realize that you can't have it all. Snap out of it, forget the fantasies, stop being so greedy."