Civil Divorce in Israel
The Orthodox rabbinate in Israel controls the marriage and divorce of Jews. According to a recent poll, 75 percent of the Jewish population supports taking divorce out of the rabbinate’s hands.
Among secular Israeli Jews, 99 percent support civil divorce.
Although there are frequent polls in Israel regarding civil marriage (for which support is about 65 percent), polls regarding divorce are rare. The recent one was commissioned by three organizations—Hiddush: For Religious Freedom and Equality; Mavoi Satum: Opening the Dead End for the Agunah; and the Center for Women’s Justice, a longtime grantee of the Hadassah Foundation. All three organizations are trying to solve the crisis of the agunot—wives whose husbands refuse to grant them a get, or religious divorce.
Asked why there is greater Israeli-Jewish support for civil divorce than for civil marriage, Rafi Smith, whose company, Smith Research, conducted the poll, explained, “Israelis don’t have to marry through the rabbinate. They can fly to Cyprus.” (International treaties compel Israel to recognize civil marriages performed abroad.) However, Smith said, even they “must divorce through the rabbinate.”