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Factors Affecting The Israeli Family, Family Patterns, Public Support For Families

Compared to other industrialized countries, Israel is a familistic society. The country's small size permits relatives to live in close geographic proximity and have frequent personal contact. Holidays and life-cycle events are generally celebrated through ceremonies and customs that bring family members together. Intrafamilial involvement and assistance (from baby sitting through major financial help) are the norm. Key indicators of Israel's familism include relatively high marital and fertility rates and low divorce rates, compared to other postindustrial countries. In 1999, for every 1,000 persons in the population of 6.4 million, there were 6.7 marriages, 21.9 births, and 1.7 divorces. The downside of this familism is that people without family may suffer social isolation, lack of social support, and a sense of not belonging.

At the same time, the traditional Israeli family shares many features of the modern family. Marriage is based more on emotional bonds than on economic or social considerations. Family functions such as childcare and caring for the elderly have been transferred to the community. Independence from the family of origin is encouraged from an early age. The monogamous nuclear family is increasingly becoming one model among others. The major values that people expect to realize within the family are less the good of the family than the good of the individual. The Israeli family also shares the stresses of other modern families: spousal tension over roles and tasks brought about by increasing gender equality, and difficulties, especially among mothers, in balancing childcare, work, and personal interests and goals.

Declining marital rates, rising divorce rates, and falling birth rates point to decreasing familism in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The decrease is most salient in the Jewish population (81% of the total), which saw substantial falls in the marital and birth rates and a doubling of the divorce rate. The Muslim (15.6%), Christian (1.8%), and Druse (1.6%) communities have remained more strongly family oriented, but cracks have begun to appear. Among the Muslims, marital rates have risen slightly, but the birth rate has fallen, and the divorce rate has more than doubled. Among the Christians and Druse, marital rates have risen or remained high, and divorce is virtually nonexistent, but birth rates have declined substantially.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural Aspects