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Inter-Religious Marriages in Israel: Gendered Implications for Conversion, Children, and Citizenship

Daphna Hacker
Israel Studies
Vol. 14, No. 2 (Summer, 2009), pp. 178-197
Published by: Indiana University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30245860
Page Count: 20
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Inter-Religious Marriages in Israel: Gendered Implications for Conversion, Children, and Citizenship
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Abstract

The article explores gendered implications for conversion, children, and citizenship in Israel through the experiences of inter-religious couples living in Israel and the legal framework that hovers over their lives. The study included 28 interviews with 14 inter-religious couples and the analysis of relevant religious and civil laws. The findings uncover the centrality of the decision whether to convert to Judaism and the gendered dimensions of this decision. Non-Jewish female spouses experience stronger pressure to convert than do non-Jewish male spouses. This gendered pressure is explained by the orthodox Jewish religious decree that recognizes a child as a Jew only if its mother is Jewish, and by the Jewish national collective's social and legal adoption of this religious definition of "who is a Jew". The gendered dimension of conversion is accompanied by a national dimension, mainly created by the automatic citizenship granted by law to Jews in Israel. The link between religion and nationality also has economic and racial aspects, as evidenced by the variety of circumstances surrounding inter-religious families in Israel. This case study provides a rich example of the tension between a socio-legal regime that tries to preserve its republican collective norms, and the liberal, individualistic, post-national normative reality of families in the global era.

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