Press Release

Statistical Report on Religion and State in Israel – New Chapters

The Israel Democracy Institute published new chapters of the first Biennial Statistical Report on Religion and State.

Photo by Africa Studio/Shutterstock

  • 77% of the budget of religious institutions is divided between three institutions - the Ministry of Religious Services, the Religious Councils and the Kadisha Burial Society. 7% is allocated to religious institutions of the non-Jewish public.
  • In the trust index, none of the Jewish religious institutions enjoy trust by the majority of the Jewish public. Of these institutions, the highest trust is in the Kadisha-burial societies (45%) and the lowest trust is in the Ministry of Religious Services (24%).
  • 35% of marriages abroad are of Jews who most of them could have gotten married in Israel via the rabbinate, but chose not to.
  • There is an increase in the proportion of couples living together without getting married: from 0.4% in 1987 to 5.2% in 2020. Among the secular, 10% of couples shared a household without getting married.
  • The average period of time for a consensual divorce proceeding from the opening of the case in the rabbinate to the granting of the divorce is about two months. 73% of the conflict cases that end in a divorce (Get), end within a year. In the cases where sanctions were imposed on the refuser, almost 3 years pass on average until a divorce is granted – if it is granted.
  • 8% of the working public in Israel over the age of 18 worked on the Sabbath in the last year: 18.8% of the Jews and 24.9% of the Arabs. Of the Jewish employees who worked from home on Shabbat, 6% stated that this was a workplace requirement and another 23% stated that this was their workplace’s clear expectation.
  • 63% of all converts in Israel are women. Women also make up 68% of all converts to religions other than Judaism (Jewish and non-Jewish to another religion).
  • 90% of restaurants in Jerusalem are kosher, compared to 49% in Tel Aviv.
  • 3% of Jews in Israel are buried through a civil burial process, up from 1.8% in 2000.
  • The holy places that receive the highest state budgets in 2021 are the Western Wall (NIS 54 million) and Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai's tomb (NIS 13 million).

The Israel Democracy Institute published new chapters of the first Biennial Statistical Report on Religion and State. The Report, edited by Ariel Finkelstein, Ayala Goldberg and Shlomit Ravitsky Tur-Paz, from the Religion and State Program in the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Center for Shared Society will be published biennially and provide an overview of the latest data, trends and changes affecting the delicate balance between religion and state in Israeli society.

Compiled based on existing and collected data, detailed surveys and research conducted “in the field,” The Statistical Report on Religion and State, provides a vast base of knowledge on the contentious topic at the core of this issue including: marriage and divorce, conversion, burial and public Shabbat observance.

In addition to the Statistical Report, a special survey was conducted by IDI’s Viterbi Family Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research among Jewish Israelis.


Representation of Women

Regarding the Orthodox Rabbinate and the positions of Imams (Islamic leadership) and Sais (Druze leadership), only men can hold office. According to the threshold conditions that require the certification of the chief rabbinate, women cannot run for rabbinical positions. As for the positions of rabbis of the non-Orthodox communities funded by the Ministry of Culture and Sports, out of 46 such positions, 19 are filled by women (41%).

Even for judicial positions in the rabbinical courts, the threshold conditions do not allow women to be appointed, and all the judges are men. Also in the Druze courts men all the judicial positions (kadi madhab). In the past, only men served in judicial positions (kadi) in the Sharia courts, but in 2017 a Muslim kadi was appointed for the first time, and as of 2022 she is the only one out of 17 judicial office holders.

As for senior positions - in 2022 only 17 of Israel’s 129 religious councils (13%) had a woman serving as head of the council. In 2021, women employees constituted 18% of the workforce at the Ministry for Religious Services, 33% at the rabbinical courts, and 17% at the Chief Rabbinate—compared with 44% of the overall workforce of the civil service.


 1996-2021 101,609 men and women officially converted in Israel. Since 2016 around 3,000 people convert a year.

The number of converts from the countries of the former Soviet Union has declined, even though there has been a gradual increase in the number of non-Jews from these countries living in Israel. A higher rate of women converted than men - in the years 2018-2021, women were 63% of all converts. In this period 80% of converts from the FSU were women.

The main reason for the higher proportion of women among converts, and in particular among those born in the former Soviet Union, is that one of the important motivations for conversion, both on the part of the religious establishment and on the part of the converts themselves, is the religious affiliation of the children.  In addition, men must undergo circumcision as part of the conversion process.

Unofficial conversions: alongside the official conversions, there are a number of organizations operating in Israel that carry out independent conversions. These conversions are recognized for the purpose of eligibility for citizenship by virtue of the Law of Return and registration in the population registry, but are not recognized by the religious institutions of the state for matters of personal status and in particular marriage. There are two main kinds of unofficial conversions:

Orthodox conversions performed by  the independent courts for Orthodox conversion called "Giyur K’Halacha" - Since their establishment of in 2015 and until the end of 2021, they have converted 1,503.

Unorthodox conversions performed by the non-orthodox movements - In the reform movement, 1,342 citizens and another 183 temporary residents converted in 2015-2021. 484 citizens converted through the traditional movement in 2017-2021 and another 50 converts who are temporary residents.

In 2021, the rate of converts in unofficial conversions was about 17% of the total number of converts that year in Israel (not including converts in independent ultra-orthodox courts for which there is no information about the scope of their activities).


Over the years, the number of couples getting married in religious institutions in Israel has increased gradually, commensurate with the growth of the population. However, among the Jewish public there is a gradual downward trend since 2015, when the number of married couples reached a peak of 39,111 couples; In 2019, the number of couples getting married in the rabbinate was 33,354, and in 2020 their number dropped to 27,006 (probably due to COVID). Among the Muslim public, there is no significant decrease in the number of married couples.

People barred from marrying:

It is important to note that in Israel people may marry only within their own religion (Jews with Jews, Muslims with Muslims, etc…)

Those withheld from marriage: Registration for marriage in the rabbinate is not possible for those who are defined as "withheld from marriage" because they are not allowed to marry according to the Halacha. A delay in marriage can be a permanent or temporary situation until an investigation is completed.

As of the end of 2021, 6,725 men and women were included in the “barred from marrying” list, divided into various different categories:

  • 3,050 people who were ruled as not halakhically Jewish by the rabbinical court (even though they are registered as Jewish)
  • 1,300 people whose Jewish status is subject to clarification
  • 342 people whose personal status is being assessed
  • 2,033 people who are Jewish but who are subject to restrictions regarding marriage for various halakhic reasons

Independent Marriage

Jewish marriage ceremonies are also carried out by private organizations not under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate. These weddings are not recognized by the state, and are even forbidden by law (though this is not enforced).

There are two alternative routes that the state recognizes for couples to be recognized as married: marriage abroad (for the general public) and the spousal registry intended for people with no religious affiliation.

The number of couples registered as married in Israel based on marriages held abroad is quite stable over the years and stands at approximately 9,000 per year throughout the years 2003-2019, which is 15% of the couples registered for marriage in these years. In 2020, this significantly decreased to 6,660, likely due to the COVID pandemic. Since 2001, 166,363 couples that got married abroad (not including same-sex couples) have been registered as married in the population registry. Of these, 40% are couples in which both partners had resident status in Israel at the time of marriage registration (or shortly after). The percentage of Jewish couples registered as married in Israel on the basis of their marriage abroad in 2019 was 5.6%.

51% of the couples who married abroad, where the religion of both spouses is known, had the option of marrying in Israel as well: 35% of the marriages abroad were between a Jewish man and a Jewish woman, who could have, in most cases, get married in the rabbinate; And in 16% of the cases of marriages abroad both spouses have no religious affiliation, who have the option of being registered in the Israeli spousal registry as well.

Same-sex marriage: Since 2006, same-sex couples who were legally married in a foreign country can register in Israel as married. Over the years since registration began, the number of same-sex couples registered as married each year has gradually increased and reached a peak in 2019, when 185 couples were registered. A total of 1,151 same-sex couples were registered in Israel, of which 704 were male couples (61%) and 447 were female couples (39%). 81% of same-sex couples who live together are not married.

Cohabitation without marriage: Analysis of the household expenses survey of the Central Bureau of Statistics shows that over the years there is a gradual and constant increase in the proportion of couples living together without marriage: from 0.4% in 1987 to 5.2% in 2020, which is approximately 96,555 couples. The phenomenon is most prevalent in secular society: 10% of secular couples are couples who run a household without getting married. In addition, 34% of couples living together without marriage are parents of children living at home.

Marriage and partnership between members of different religions: according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, as of the beginning of 2021 there are 1,747,195 married couples in Israel. Among the couples in which at least one partner is Jewish, 6.4% are couples of a Jew married to a non-Jewish partner: the clear majority (6.3%) are of a Jew married to an "other" (have no religious affiliation or non-Arab Christian, mostly former Soviet Union immigrants) and the minority (0.1%) are of a Jew married to an Arab. Of the Jews married to "others" in 88% of the cases (74,741 couples) it is a Jew married to a person with no religious affiliation, and in the remaining cases (9,658 couples) a Jew married to a non-Arab Christian. In 62% of the cases of Jewish marriages with non-Jews, the man is Jewish and the woman is not Jewish. The analysis of the data at the individual level (and not at the level of couples) shows that of all married Jews in Israel, 3.3% are married to a non-Jew.


The number of divorcing couples is on the rise, and in 2019 reached a peak of 15,992 couples, of which 12,336 are Jewish (77% of those who divorce) and 2,581 are Muslims (16% of those who divorce) and the rest (7%) are members of other religions, have no religion or couples where the spouses are not of the same religion. During the last decade, the number of divorces among Jewish couples increased by 14% and among Muslim couples by 44%. Among the Jewish public, the divorce rate (divorces per 1,000 people in the population) is 1.8, and among the Muslim public it was 1.6 in 2019.

Proceedings in Rabbinical Courts

  • In 2021, 14,347 divorce proceedings were filed with rabbinical courts in Israel, of which 3,869 were conflictual divorce proceedings and 10,505 were consensual.
  • There has been a steady rise over the last decade in the proportion of divorce proceeding filed by women.

In cases of divorce of Jewish couples in the rabbinic courts, the average length of time to manage a divorce case by consent is several months. In 2012 it was about three months (92 days), in 2014 it increased to about four months (118 days) and since then it has gradually decreased until a period of about two months (61 days) in 2021.

Disputed divorce: In Israel divorce is possible only if both parties are in agreement. In cases of divorce without the consent of both parties, 73% of the divorce claims that end in a divorce, end within a period of one year since the filing of the claim, 18% between one and two years and 9% after more than two years from the opening of the case.

Extent of Divorce (get) Refusals

One of the most contentious issues is the question of the extent of divorce refusals in Israel. According to official figures presented by the rabbinical courts to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, this is a fairly minor phenomenon, with only 46 individuals being refused a divorce as of September 2021. However, the organizations that work to address this issue report that it is much more widespread (and is estimated to be in the thousands.)

Ritual Baths

Among married Jewish women, 35% bathe regularly in a ritual bath (mikveh) (usually once a month), 11% do so occasionally, and 43% did so only immediately before their wedding (as per the Rabbinate requirements).

Among Jewish men, 12% bathe once a week or once a month, 12% once a year, and 9% every few years.

Burial from Abroad

The number of those buried in Israel who died abroad increased significantly over the years, and in 2021 it stood at a record of 2,646, of which 1,606 (61%) are Israeli citizens who died abroad and were brought for burial in Israel, and 1,040 (39%) are not Israeli citizens.

The majority of those brought for burial in Israel are France (40%) and the United States (35%). 5% were brought from Britain, 3% from Canada and 17% from other countries.


69% of Jews are strict to some degree about eating kosher food: 46% say that they are always strict and another 23% are partially strict. 35% of the Jews answered that they only eat at a business that has a kosher certificate that they trust, and another 22% keep kosher according to their understanding or according to the statement of the owner of the business, even if he does not have a kosher certificate. The remaining 43% of Jews do not check at all the extent to which the business keeps kosher.

Halal – In Israel 66% of Muslims are always strict about eating halal and another 23% is strict sometimes. Among Muslims who are always careful to eat halal, 68% answered that meat that has a kosher certificate is considered permissible to eat in their eyes, 19% answered no and 13% answered they don't know.


Employment on Shabbat: 19.8% of the working public in Israel over the age of 18 worked on Shabbat in the last year: 12.6% from the field or from the office and 7.2% from home. The analysis of the data in the segmentation between self-employed and employees shows that 18.8% of the employees work on Shabbat, while 26.6% of the self-employed work on Shabbat. Among Jews, the rate of working on Shabbat stands at 18.8% and among Arabs at 24.9%.

As of June 2022, there were 467 employers with a permit to employ workers on the weekly day of rest. This is in addition to a general permit that exists for people working in fifteen fields, such as hospital, tourism, etc… Together, these permits allow for the employment of 22,345 people on the weekly day of rest: 19,828 workers and 2,517 workers on call.

Cultural and Commercial activity: Each local authority is empowered to pass municipal bylaws relating to the opening of businesses on the day of rest. As of 2022, 147 out of the 255 local authorities in Israel (58%) have such a bylaw: 114 Jewish authorities and 33 Arab authorities. The legal definitions they employ can be divided into three main categories of business activity on Shabbat: commerce, culture, and selling food:

  • Food - 74% permit the sale of food on Shabbat, 7% allow it completely, and 4% issue special permits for selling food - 15% ban the sale of food within their jurisdiction.
  • Commercial Activity - 89% maintain an outright ban on commercial activity, 3% allow it, while 9% allow for special permits to be granted to particular businesses.
  • Cultural Activity - 70% forbid the opening of cultural institutions on Shabbat, and another 5% forbid it in general while offering special permits to select institutions. Cultural institutions are freely allowed to open on Shabbat in just 19%, while a further 5% permit them to do so under certain conditions (in most cases, when the activities offered are free of charge).

Religious institutions

Budgets - The data for the 2020 religious institutions’ budgets does not include additional budgets allocated to religious services that are provided otherwise.

The State budget for religious institutions in 2020 was 1.855 billion shekels. 77% was divided between three institutions: the Ministry of Religious Services (NIS 512 million), the religious councils (NIS 599 million), and the Kadisha-burial societies (NIS 313 million). 7% (127 million) of the religious institutions' budget was allocated to the non-Jewish public and was divided between the religious denominations division in the Ministry of the Interior (97 million) and the Sharia and Druze courts (30 million).

The religious services budget of the religious councils is divided between mikvah services (21%, 171 million), rabbinical and marriage services (16%, 130 million) and burials (15%, 115 million). On top of that, 18% of the budget is allocated for pensioners’ salaries.

Employment - The number of clerics employed or financed by the state currently stands at 1,272: 62% of them are rabbis, 28% Imams and Sais and 10% hold judicial positions.

* Data from the Biennial Statistical Report on Religion and State are based on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, ministries and government authorities.

** Data from the survey   was analyzed with the assistance of the Viterbi Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research of the Israel Democracy Institute. In the survey, which was conducted on the internet and by telephone (supplements of groups that are not sufficiently represented on the network) in August 2022, 1016 men and women were interviewed in Hebrew and 214 in Arabic, constituting a representative national sample of the entire adult population of Israel aged 18 and older. The maximum sampling error for the entire sample was ±2.85%. The fieldwork was done by the Midgam Institute, Ipanel and Afkar Research.