Is intermarriage in Israel threatening the Jewish state?

The majority of the 85,000 couples are Jewish men married to non-Jewish women.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

There are 85,000 cases of intermarriage in Israel today according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), Israel Hayom reported Monday.

With some 1.3 million couples in the country, this represents 6.3% of all marriages. Some 32,000 Jewish women are married to non-Jewish men, while 52,000 Jewish men are married to non-Jewish women. Children of the latter partnerships are not considered Jewish according to Orthodox Jewish law, which recognizes only matrilineal descent.

In the vast majority of the intermarried couples – 87% – the non-Jewish member does not belong to any religion at all. According to the report, they are “likely” to come from the Former Soviet Union (FSU). This would seem to mean that they come from Christian families, as that is the foremost religion in the region.

Only a few therefore seem to be unions of Arabs and Jews. In such cases, the CBS said that more Jewish women married Arab men than the other way around.

Anecdotal if not statistical data backs this up, as the Israeli Yad L’Achim organization, whose slogan is “We don’t give up on a even a single Jew,” says that hundreds of cases are reported to them annually about Jewish girls and women getting involved with Arab or Bedouin partners. The group has made a name for itself especially in religious circles by arranging the rescue of hundreds of Jewish women and their children over the years who had been trapped in abusive relationships with their Arab husbands and called Yad L’Achim for help.

In a country where issues of personal status are controlled by the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate, Israeli Jews who want to marry outside their faith cannot do so in the country, as Jewish law forbids intermarriage. There is as yet no provision for civil marriage in Israel, as there is in many other countries, where a judge can sign off on the matrimony.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, whose party is mainly backed by immigrants from the FSU, has pushed to have a civil marriage option for years. The Rabbinate will not budge, as it fears that the proliferation of such unions will have a negative effect on the Jewishness of the only Jewish state in the world.

Determined couples therefore travel to places such as Cyprus, which is less than an hour’s flight away, to be married in a civil ceremony after filling out a mound of paperwork and paying a fee of perhaps a few hundred dollars.

As far as the Israeli government is concerned, once they present a proper license upon their return, they can be listed as “married” in all their documents, including their identity cards, and receive all the social and legal rights this entails. They will simply not be recognized as a couple by the religious authorities.