Israel is a Western democracy. Culturally, it has almost nothing in common with conservative countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and North Korea.
However, it appears there is one issue that puts these strikingly dissimilar states on the same level: Marriage.
Civil marriage is not recognized in Israel due to which, according to a new report by Hiddush, an advocacy group, around 666,000 Israelis are unable to legally marry. As a result, some 20 percent of Israeli couples have to register marriages abroad.
Since nearly 70% of secular Israelis would choose to have a non-Orthodox marriage ceremony, there’s a lot of debate as to whether changes should be made to the archaic laws pertaining to marriage in Israel.
This isn’t the first time Hiddush has tried to highlight the issue. In 2013, the religious freedom nonprofit released an online world map examining and comparing the status of freedom of marriage in 194 countries.
As it turned out, Israel was the only Western democracy that received the lowest grade which put it on par with some of the most staunchly conservative countries like Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and even North Korea, which is officially an atheist country, however, marriages between different social classes is strictly forbidden.
“The main objective of the map was to illustrate Israel’s dire position alongside the most backward of Muslim countries, far from acceptable practice in the democratic world,” Rabbi Uri Regev, president and CEO of Hiddush stated in April 2013. “We’re hoping the harsh picture arising from the map will help advance a policy change in Israel that will lead to complete freedom of marriage.”
Although the issue doesn’t hold much significance internationally, it is one of great importance to Israelis. Israel promises “freedom of religion and conscience and equality” to its people. It should, therefore, allow enough freedom to its citizens to marry in whichever manner they want to.