A new study commissioned by Hiddush—an organization seeking to promote religious freedom—found that 30% more young couples prefer living together out of wedlock to tying the knot at the Rabbinate.
The data, taken from the Central Bureau of Statistics, showed that during the years 2012–2014, the number of unwed Jewish couples living together jumped from 65,000 (or 5% of the total number of Jewish couples in Israel) to 84,000 (or 6.1%).
The trend toward a relationship untethered by tradition has been gaining prominence in Israel for some time. In 2007, 36,504 couples were married through the Rabbinate, while seven years later, in 2014, that number stood at 36,900. Taking into account the population growth, this shows that the number of couples getting married at the Rabbinate has gone down to less than 6.5%.
It is worth noting that while young Jewish couples are opting out of religious marriage, the number of Muslim couples getting traditionally married has gone up 5%, from 11,300 in 2013 to 11,900 in 2014.
Hidush President Rabbi Uri Regev believes these data point at a widening distance between Israel’s Jewish population and the Rabbinate. “The Rabbinical institution is making marriage itself undesirable to Israeli couples, both by the torturous road to marriage and the concern of having to get divorced in Rabbinical courts. There is no greater enemy to Judaism than the Rabbinate and Rabbinical courts.”
Regev added, “Ironically, the Rabbinate is responsible for the large-scale gnawing at the institution of the Israeli family. The obvious conclusion is that this monopoly must be abolished and accommodate to the majority of the population that wants freedom in their choice of marriage. Civil marriage must be introduced, while acknowledging all sectors of Judaism.”
There has also been a 7.5% decrease over a two year period in the number of secular Jews wishing to get civil married abroad, from 9,509 in 2012 to 8,782 in 2014. Of those who do marry abroad, a third go to Cyprus, 28% fly to the US and 18% travel to the Czech Republic’s capital of Prague.