Courtship and Marriage

In the Jewish secular sector of Israel, grammar school children use the term "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" to designate special friends of the other sex. However, such relationships are usually kept within the peer group, and the early "couple" will not usually meet outside their peer group. Later, usually in early to middle adolescence, more romantically oriented pairs will form and dating will commence. Casual dating is not encouraged, and usually a couple will date for at least a few months. These young couples sometimes stay together for long periods of time, and eventually marry. Early sexual experiences may be a part of these committed relationships, even at a relatively early age. Many more couples form later, during or following mandatory military service (Lavee & Katz, 2003).

The median age of first marriage has been rising (Table 1). The only exception to this pattern is found for Muslim women (as well as ultra-orthodox Jewish women) whose age of first marriage has remained virtually constant. This finding also indicates the ever-deepening cultural cleavage between secular Western-oriented Israeli sectors, and the more traditional segments of Arab and Jewish societies.

Table 1. Median Age of First Marriage, by Sex and Religion, in Three Time Periods

Jew

Muslim

Christian

1970

Women

21.5

19.3

21

Men

24.1

23.4

27

1985

Women

22.7

19.8

22.4

Men

25.7

23.7

27.3

2000

Women

24.4

20.3

23.1

Men

26.7

25

28.3

In ultra-orthodox Jewish and Muslim communities the family is heavily involved in matchmaking. The young woman has veto power over the husband candidate. If she accepts him, the marriage is quickly arranged. In these communities, special permission is often sought to enable the young woman to marry at 17. In fact, the minimum age of marriage was set by law at age 18 in order to prevent these communities from arranging marriages for girls aged 15-16, or even younger girls (Hassan, 1993; Lavee & Katz, 2003).

Upon marriage, the wife moves to and becomes part of her husband's family in traditional Arab sectors. As a result, investing in a daughter's education was not seen as relevant, as her family would not benefit from this investment. This attitude is changing in the more socially affluent sectors of Arab society (Mar'i & Mar'i, 1985).

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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