Israeli rabbis have approved the practice of polygamy to counter what they believe is a demographic threat posed by Arab populations living in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
An expose by Channel 10, an Israeli broadcasting channel, revealed the practice was approved by the rabbinate that has actively encouraged and facilitated polygamy, claiming the practice will give Jews an edge in the demographic race against Arabs in Israel.
One rabbi who has been married for 26 years is filmed by an undercover reporter persuading a single woman to become his second wife.
“If your parents ask you why you don’t marry like everyone else,” he told her, “tell them that it is a mitzvah [religious commandment] and I want to do a mitzvah.”
The rabbi showed the reporter a letter signed by Jerusalem’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar permitting him to marry a second wife.
Reporting on the story, The Times of Israel commented that “although Jewish law forbids a woman to marry more than one husband, a practice known as polyandry, it does permit a man to marry more than one wife.”
“There are several instances of polygamy in the Bible, including two of the three patriarchs (Abraham and Jacob) and many of the kings. Jewish law gives guidelines as to the circumstances under which polygamy is permitted,” The Times of Israel explained.
The Israeli newspaper also claimed that there are cases outside of Israel, primarily within Sephardic communities, where a husband who refuses to divorce his wife is granted permission to remarry by a rabbi. This leaves the first wife as an aguna, or chained woman, who is forbidden by Jewish law from remarrying.
A spokesperson for a pro-Jewish demographic domination group, The Complete Jewish Home, told Channel 10: “We are dealing with men and women who are responsible, and this is a solution to the problem of having more single women than men seeking marriage. It also ensures the Jewish demographic majority in the country, and guarantees the right of religious women to become mothers.”
Though polygamy has been illegal in Israel since 1977, authorities largely turn a blind eye to the practice.