Divorce among “unmarried” muslim arabs in Israel: Women's reasons for the dissolution of unactualized marriages

Riki Savaya*, Orna Cohen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This paper explores the reasons for what we term “contract divorce” among a sample of 56 such divorced Muslim Arab women in Israel. “Contract divorce” occurs when the marital union is dismantled during the customary period of delay between the time the couple sign the legally binding marital contract, which makes them man and wife in both Islamic and Israeli law, and the time they move in together and consummate their marriage. This period of delay is designed to permit the couple, who are otherwise bound by strict rules of gender segregation, to spend time together and get to know one another before beginning their life together. The most frequently stated reason for the contract divorce was the woman's discovery of incompatibility and major lifestyle differences. These focused on differences in religiosity, modernity, or education, or stemmed from the woman's objections to her husband's personality traits and behaviors. Lack of attraction was a much less frequent reason, though strong dislike or hatred was given more often. The least frequent reason, but a telling one, was bad faith on the part of Palestinian men who married Israeli Arab women in order to obtain Israeli identification cards, and then divorced when they got the papers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-109
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Divorce and Remarriage
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 22 Mar 2004


  • Divorce
  • Divorce among Arabs
  • Divorce in Israel
  • Muslim divorce
  • Women and divorce


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