According to the data of Sharia courts in Arab towns in Israel, divorces have witnessed a worrying rise, with 3,541 cases of divorce recorded and 8,850 marriages last year.
The head of the Sakhnin Sharia Court, Judge Hashim Sawaed, said that according to information received from nine Sharia courts in the country, in addition to official data, 8850 marriages and 3541 divorce cases were registered in 2018. Such statistics do not exist in any other society worldwide. Hence, these are terrible and very disturbing figures, especially since they do not include undocumented cases, as what is meant here with the term marriage is legally signed matrimony contracts.
Judge Sawaed added that "for the data issued by the Sakhnin Sharia Court in particular, and a year and a half after its establishment, 2299 lawsuits were processed, including 511 divorce files, that is, 22 per cent of the overall number of files handled by the court. If we look further, the majority of divorces are filed by arbitration, where 54 per cent of cases the wives are the ones who filed the arbitration case while in 46 per cent of the divorce cases it is the husband is the one who filed the arbitration case. Here, we can say that it is clear that women take the initiative more often than men in filing for divorces."
Judge Sawaed explained several reasons behind the increase in divorce cases in Arab societies sating: "Is it wise to deal with the increase of divorces in isolation from the prevalent phenomenon of violence or the high percentage of road accidents in Arab societies? I believe that we cannot; this is my personal opinion, which I have reached after long years of practising my profession as a Sharia judge in several courts. I worked two and a half years in the Sharia Court in Jerusalem, where I dealt with the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and Arab citizens of the West Bank and Gaza. Then I moved to the Sharia Court in Haifa and worked five years there. In Haifa, I also dealt with many people belonging to multiple social segments in different regions. Thus, I came to the conclusion that the reasons which have led to the aggravation of the phenomenon of divorce in all areas are the same."
He indicated that "the main reason behind the spread of the phenomenon of divorce is moral bankruptcy, as the Arab societies are witnessing a state of decline and deterioration. This may be explained by the fact that, as an eastern society, we voluntarily accepted the way others perceived us, i.e. a backward people who lost their religious beliefs, civilization, moral heritage, ethics as if trying to re-create another version of us with no consideration to what set us apart as an oriental society with its distinctive character, whether Muslim or Christian. They want to redefine our identity according to the Western model that establishes the individual values at the expense of family life. If the husband tries to fulfil his aspirations and act as if he were single and wives do the same, adding to that the absence of healthy methods of parenting and children exposed to social media, then it is unavoidable to witness the collapse of familial and social values. "
These comments were delivered during the study day organised by the municipality of Sakhnin and the People's Committee, on Saturday, with the participation of dozens of Sakhnin locals and citizens from the neighbouring towns, on the subject of family cohesion and divorces.
Sakhnin Municipality spokesperson Ghazal Abu Raya opened the study day by saying that "cohesive families are the key to building a strong and immune society", stressing the importance of incorporating partnership and public participation into municipal work.
The mayor, Safwat Abu Raya, said: "The municipality considers that the issue of safeguarding family values and cohesion is a collective objective toward constructing a solid societal tissue."
He called on all the cadres to "take up their role in raising awareness about familial harmony, and strengthen the role of mediation culture in resolving all forms of conflicts."
A number of attendees participated in the discussion. It made suggestions on "the importance of enhancing the performance of the units within the social welfare departments dealing with family issues, the importance of education and awareness sessions for marital life, conflict resolution through dialogue, and the educative role of the school as far as the issue of family life is concerned."
The attendees agreed on the need to hold meetings on the subject of family education continuously.