Last Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2017, 09:51 GMT

Israel: Mixed-marriage couples and families (particularly of an Arab husband and a Jewish wife); reports of such couples being targeted by Orthodox Jewish groups or any difficulties they may face; protection and recourse available

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 17 August 2004
Citation / Document Symbol ISR42896.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Israel: Mixed-marriage couples and families (particularly of an Arab husband and a Jewish wife); reports of such couples being targeted by Orthodox Jewish groups or any difficulties they may face; protection and recourse available, 17 August 2004, ISR42896.E, available at: [accessed 14 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

General Situation of Mixed Marriages in Israel

While the precise number of mixed marriages in Israel between Arabs and Jews is unknown, International Crisis Group qualifies them as rare (4 Mar. 2004, 2) and Newsday reported that there are estimates running from several hundred to well over a thousand (27 Apr. 2002). The Newsday article indicates that the vast majority of cases comprise "Arab men who are citizens of Israel and Jewish women" (27 Apr. 2002); couples made up of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories and Israeli Jews are a rare occurrence (Newsday 27 Apr. 2002). According to Newsday, few marriages survive, with many couples eventually separating, divorcing or leaving the country, "particularly when they have children and face the entrenched biases and impediments here" (ibid.).

Legal Status of Intermarriage

According to New Family, an Israeli organization devoted to "attain[ing] [the] legal recognition of every family unit in Israel to ensure equal rights for every type of family" (n.d.), the only marriages recognized by Israel are those between co-religionists; people of different religions cannot marry unless one converts to the other's religion (New Family 2004).

Another article points to a May 2003 decision in which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the Ministry of Justice to draft legislation denying automatic Israeli citizenship to children of mixed Israeli-Palestinian parents, a move opposed by several Jewish and Arab members of the Knesset (Jerusalem Post 27 May 2003). Information indicating whether the bill was eventually approved could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Religious Ramifications

Jewish law prohibits the marriage of Jews to non-Jews (Haaretz n.d.). Since in Israel only religious authorities can legally perform weddings, and the rabbinate will not accept to officiate at an intermarriage (Maariv 28 Mar. 2004), the only way a Jew could marry a non-Jew would be if one partner converted to the other's religion or the couple had a civil ceremony abroad, which could then be registered in Israel under international law (Newsday 27 Apr. 2002).

Since a Jew cannot marry a non-Jewish Arab in Israel, some women are in the situation wherein they have a partner and children but their families are not legally recognized by the State (New Family n.d.). Legislation proposed by New Family would grant all marriages legal status irrespective of their religious make-up (New Family n.d.); but, as of August 2004, there has been no indication that any such bill has been implemented within Israeli law (ibid.). However, in a 28 March 2004 article, Maariv reported that the Knesset accepted a motion to grant Israeli citizenship to non-Jewish parents of Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers.

As for the children, Jewish law stipulates that a child is automatically Jewish if his/her mother is Jewish (OU n.d.; Maariv 28 Mar. 2004) but is not Jewish if only the father is Jewish, unless the child undergoes a formal conversion to Judaism ( n.d.).

Societal Attitudes Toward Intermarriage Between Israeli Arabs and Jews

According to a report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), the majority of Jews as well as Arabs in Israel are opposed to intermarriage (4 Mar. 2004, 2).

One couple comprising an Israeli Arab Muslim man and a Jewish woman got married in a civil ceremony in Michigan before returning to Israel, where, together with their two daughters, they claimed to be subjected to "many double takes, criticisms, and insults" (Newsday 27 Apr. 2002). On the other hand, the woman is part of a group that wants to begin an Arab-Jewish community in Galilee, and her eldest daughter did report some positive feedback from friends at school who learned from her and grew to better appreciate her mixed family (ibid.).

Reports of mixed-marriage couples being targeted by Orthodox Jewish groups could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, a 5 March 2004 article from Reuters mentioned the arrest of an "ultra-nationalist Jew[ish]" man who admitted to carrying out a bombing campaign against Arabs. Among the man's planned targets were Arab-Jewish couples as well as Jewish-Arab meeting places (Reuters 5 Mar. 2004).

Societal Attitudes Toward Intermarriage Between Israelis and Palestinians

While articles mentioning the situation of mixed Jewish and Arab Israeli couples were scarce among the sources consulted, several sources highlighted the challenging circumstances in which mixed Israeli and Palestinian couples found themselves (AP 19 May 2002; Jerusalem Post 27 May 2003; IHT 10 Nov. 2003; Washington Post 5 Nov. 2000). One couple is that of an Arab Israeli woman and her Palestinian husband, who could not see his wife after Israel froze citizenship applications (AP 19 May 2002). Two articles reveal the plight of mixed Israeli-Palestinian couples and their children, who must face harassment both in Israel and in the West Bank (IHT 10 Nov. 2003; Washington Post 5 Nov. 2000). A Jewish Israeli woman was evicted from her apartment along with her Palestinian partner when the landlord found out that the man was from the Occupied Territories; she was also fired from a daycare centre for a purportedly similar reason (ibid.).

Protection and Recourse Available

Information regarding protection and recourse available specifically to Arab-Jewish couples could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Besides recommending new legislation to recognize Arab-Jewish families (as well as other "non-traditional" families), New Family's mandate includes the provision of legal counsel and aid to Israeli families, which face predicaments because of their "non-traditional" makeup, as well as the promotion of an information and public awareness campaign, which seeks to address the problems of mixed Israeli-Palestinian couples and the need for legalization of civil marriage in Israel (New Family n.d.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References n.d. "Introduction to Judaism." [Accessed 16 Aug. 2004]

Associated Press (AP). 19 May 2002. Celean Jacobson. "Israel Freezes Citizenship Rights of Palestinians Married to Israelis." (NEXIS)

Haaretz [Tel Aviv]. n.d. Joseph Algazy. "A Marriage of Inconvenience." [Accessed 16 Aug. 2004]

International Crisis Group (ICG). 4 March 2004. No. 25. Identity Crisis: Israel and Its Arab Citizens. [Accessed 17 Aug. 2004]

International Herald Tribune (IHT) [Paris]. 10 November 2003. James Bennet. "Yossi Peretz to his Mother/Muhammad Hussein to his Father." > (New York Times)

Jerusalem Post. 27 May 2003. Dan Izenberg. "Jewish, Arab MKs Slam Order to Deny Citizenship to Children of Israeli-Palestinian Couples." (on Network Website.) [Accessed 13 Aug. 2004]

Maariv [Tel Aviv]. 28 March 2004. Ilil Shahar. "Non-Jewish Parents of IDF Soldiers to Get Citizenship." [Accessed 13 Aug. 2004]

New Family, Tel Aviv. n.d. "Advancing Family Rights In Israel." [Accessed 13 Aug. 2004]
_____. 2004. "Newsletter Spring 2004." [Accessed 16 Aug. 2004]

Newsday [New York]. 27 April 2002. Andrew Metz. "Love in a World of Hate: Multifaith Family Coping in Israel." (Dialog)

Orthodox Union (OU). n.d. Emanuel Quint. "The Jerusalem Institute of Jewish Law." [Accessed 16 Aug. 2004]

Reuters. 5 March 2004. Gwen Ackerman. "Israel Holds Jew for Bombing Campaign Against Arabs." [Accessed 13 Aug. 2004]

The Washington Post. 5 November 2000. Sharon Waxman. "West Bank Story; He's Palestinian. She's Israeli. They're in Love--and in Trouble." (NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

Unsuccessful attempts to contact The Association for Civil Rights in Israel as well as The New Family Organization.

Internet Sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Freedom House, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Jerusalem Report Magazine, United States Department of State, World News Connection (WNC).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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