According to Dr. Netanel Fisher of the Academic Center for Law and Science Sha’arei Mishpat in Hod Hasharon, nearly 100,000 couples in Israel involve a Jewish spouse who is married to a non-Jew. Dr. Fisher relies on data he received from the Central Bureau of Statistics and the Interior Ministry.
Fisher says that the data show that in Israel there are a total of 1.3 million couples in which at least one of the spouses is Jewish. Of those, in 1.26 million couples both spouses are Jewish, and 85,000 couples have a non-Jew and a Jew.
In addition, the data show that in most of these mixed couples the woman is not Jewish: 52,000 Jewish men are married to a non-Jew, compared to 32,000 Jewish women. This means that the offspring of the Jewish male and non-Jewish female will not be Jewish according to Jewish law.
CBS data show that the vast majority of non-Jewish spouses of Israeli Jews—87%—are not religious, which the report suggests most of them are from the former Soviet Union.
Also, despite the campaigns of Lehava and other anti-assimilation groups, the CBS data show that the phenomenon of Jewish women marrying Arab men is marginal. However, of that very small number, most of the Jews who marry an Arab are women.
Dr. Fisher’s article, Integrating non-Jewish immigrants and the formation of Israel’s ethnic–civic nationhood: from Ben Gurion to the present, won Middle Eastern Studies magazine’s Outstanding Article Award in 2017. Fisher offers this observation:
Without getting into the debate whether national identification with the dominant ethnic group is exceptional on the international scene, and to what extent Israeli democracy is flawed if at all, one of the claims voiced against the Jewish ethnic democracy model is that it has no assimilation policy, i.e. that its ethnic boundaries are closed to whoever is non-Jewish by origin or by religion, thus hindering the possibility of creating a community of equal citizens. In our opinion, Ben Gurion was well aware of this democratic problem, thus allowing non-Jews to immigrate and integrate into Israel’s Jewish society, including those not of Jewish origin. He sought to integrate civic and cultural elements into the Jewish ethnic nationality, enabling non-Jews to enter it, as long as they would assimilate into the Jewish collectivity. In other words, even if this was to be an ‘ethnic democracy,’ its ethnic dimension did not preclude the inclusion of non-Jews who wished to join it.