“The marriages and divorces of Jews shall be carried out in Israel according to the law of the Torah,” laid down the Knesset in 1953. Sixty-three years later, it turns out that the legislature made a serious miscalculation: A survey carried out before the wedding season shows that the law’s intervention in the intimate affairs of couples, even dictating the nature of the happiest days of their lives, actually keeps them away from the goal, even though some of them voluntarily choose to have a Jewish wedding.
According to the data collected by Smith Consulting, 80% of the public is convinced that the Rabbinical Courts (Marriages and Divorces) Law increases the number of Israelis who choose to wed in civil ceremonies abroad. Of those who think so, 73% of traditional respondents and 56% of religious respondents are of the same opinion.
The data also show that 68% of the public supports the state recognizing non-religious weddings carried out in Israel. The survey, which was carried out for the Religious Zionist “Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah” group ahead of Tu B’Av, “Jewish Valentine’s Day,” which is the peak of the wedding season and takes place next week.
Overall, 56% of Israelis agree with the statement that the amount and content of religious legislation today is distancing Israeli citizens from Judaism, and 61% supporting changing the status quo. However, religious Israelis think otherwise: 63% say that they don’t see the laws as influencing Israelis’ relationship with religion.
Another indication that the existing relationship between religion and the state is distancing the citizenry from Jewish tradition is the connection between observing commandments enforced by law and those that are not. For example, many of those surveyed expressed support to cancel the law forbidding the sale of leavened bread (chametz) during Passover or the law forbidding raising pigs for consumption, and yet stated that they fast on Yom Kippur.
The head of Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avoda, Shmuel Shattach, said about the findings, “The survey that we carried out slaughters a few holy cows. First, it proves once and for all that opposition to the current situation in the field of religion and the state does not mean opposition to religion. On the contrary, many of those who are really worried about religion are opposed to the existing religious legislation precisely because of this worry. The survey even proves directly and indirectly that the arrangements between religion and the state anchored in the status quo are in fact distancing Israelis from Judaism
“The time has come that Israeli politicians, including the religious ones, finally make a switch and start reflecting the sentiments of many within Israeli society, including those for whom tradition and religion are close to their heart, through actions directed at rearranging the relations of religion and the state.”