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General Organization
I. Historical Development
1) When was the registration service established in your country?
Registration in Israel is done by the Population and Immigration Authority, which is subject to the Ministry of Interior. The Authority was established in 2008. The operation of this Authority is governed by the Population Registry Act, 5726-1965. [there is a separate registry for criminal convictions etc., which is managed by the police]
2) Which authorities were empowered before this date and what is the evidential value of documents drawn up by them?
Israel has inherited its registration system from the British Mandate for Palestine, which existed in the area before the establishment of the state of Israel. The relevant authority is the Population Registry office which is part of the Population and Immigration Authority in the Ministry of Interior. Most details documented by this authority have high evidentiary value. Data in documents issued by it is considered to be prima facia true. Exceptions are the items of marital status, name of spouse, religion and nationality (which in Israeli law in this context is not to be confused with citizenship), following rulings by the High Court of Justice (HCJ) that allowed registration of these items based on foreign documents without evaluation of substantive validity.
3) Can you cite the major texts marking the development of civil status in your country?
The leading piece of legislation is the Population Registry Act, 5726-1965.
4) Can you cite the major judgments that have marked the development of civil status in your country?
Leading court cases are HCJ 142/62 Funk-Schlesinger v. Minister of the Interior [1963] IsrSC 17 225 [registration of foreign marriages, and consequently the loss of evidentiary value of the registration of marriage], and other cases following its ruling, such as HCJ 2597/99 Rodriguez-Tushbeim v. Minister of the Interior [2005] IsrSC 58(5) 412 (May 31,.2004) [registration of foreign conversions, and consequently the loss of evidentiary value of the registration of religion and nation]; HCJ 3045/05 Ben-Ari v. Director of Population Administration [2006] [2006] (2) IsrLR 283 [registration of same-sex marriages].
II. Characteristics of the System
1) Is the registration service secular ou religious in your country?
2) If secular:
a) Do any acts of religious authorities have any effect on civil status and, if so, which?
The registration service is secular, but it contains data regarding one’s marital status, religion and nationality (which, e.g., for Jews, would be Jewish, regardless of their citizenship), which are created by religious authorities through procedures and powers bestowed on them by the civil legislator.
b) Must an act drawn up by a national religious authority be transcribed or registered by a civil authority and what are the consequences of a failure to transcribe or register?
Marriages, divorces and conversions must be registered. The Marriage and Divorce (Registration) Ordinance, 1919, legislated during the British Mandate but still in force today, authorises specific religious authorities to act as marriage and divorce registrars (that is, to create and dissolve marriages) and obliges them to report the marriage or divorce to the Ministry of Interior. Failure to report is a criminal offence on the part of the registrar and the couple, punishable by two years of imprisonment. However, there are no known cases of convictions on this count, though private marriages and divorces are known to exist within certain groups in Israel. The registration does not negate the validity of the marriage or divorce, which is governed by religious law, even in the eyes of the civil law and secular state.
Conversions of religion must be registered to have legal validity. To do so, one must obtain a certificate documenting the conversion from the head of the religious community (e.g., Chief Rabbi, Chief Kaddi) to which one entered and submitted the certificate for registration at the Population Registry.
3) Which of your national authorities are authorised to register events?
All registrations are ultimately by the Population Registry. Different entities are in charge of informing the Registry of various events. For example:
  • Births are to be informed by the hospital (or clinic etc.) in case of hospital birth; the doctor, nurse and parents in case of birth outside of a hospital; the parents in case of birth abroad to parents who are residents of Israel. The term Resident in this context reflects a legal category of immigration status and not a factual matter (as opposed to habitual residence).
  • Deaths are to be informed by the hospital (or clinic, nursing home, etc.) and the doctor determining death or, in the absence of a doctor, the person present at the time of death; immediate family members who are residents of Israel, in case of death abroad of an Israeli resident.
  • Marriages, divorces and conversions are documented by religious authorities, as mentioned above, who will inform the Registry of those facts.
  • A Couple’s Union, which is a secular union only available to couples where both parties are legally not members of any religion that is recognised in Israel, is registered by the marriage registrar in the Ministry of Justice, who will have the union registered in the Population Registry.
4) Which authorities hold and keep the registers?
The registry is ultimately kept by the Population Registry in the Ministry of Interior. Other official bodies such as governmental ministries, the police and religious courts have access to parts or all of the information in the registry.
5) Is there a national authority responsible for civil status in your country?
Yes, the Population and Immigration Authority, which keeps the Population Registry, is a national authority.
6) Can you give details of who performs the duties of a civil registrar? Are they elected officials? Are they people who have passed an administrative competition or examination? Is this a profession as such in your country?
Israel does not have civil registrars beyond those working for the Population and Immigration Authority in the Ministry of Interior. They are not elected nor have any special formal training or examination.
7) In which language(s) are documents drawn up?
Hebrew and English
8) What are the different categories of documents and registers used in your country?
Israel uses ID cards which are issued by the Ministry of Interior. Those include one’s name, date of birth, names of parents and parental grandfather, place of birth, citizenship and identification number. An added document which is attached to the ID card documents one’s address and children.
Other than that there are various certificates regarding birth, death, marriage, divorce, conversion etc., which are issued by relevant bodies authorised by law and working with the Population Registry, as described above. Some documents, such as adoption certificates, are issued by courts.
There are no local registration authorities. All registrations are ultimately done at the national level by the Ministry of Interior, which has offices in different parts of the country.
9) What is the role of computer technology?
a) Are civil status registers drawn up or reproduced by computer?
b) Can information available in electronic form be consulted by third parties?
Yes, relevant data is shared between official bodies (e.g. other government ministries, police, army) as well as private pre-approved bodies (banks, municipal governments etc.).
c) Can interested parties and/or third parties obtain copies of or extracts from civil status records via the Internet?
Yes, one may obtain one’s own information online for a small fee, from the local branch of the Ministry of Interior, for free. Third parties may submit a request online for a small fee and get the information if the request is approved.
III. Consular Registration
1) Do your laws prohibit foreign diplomatic agents or consular officers from exercising, in your territory, the functions of a registrar with regard to their nationals?
No. Documentation of events such as marriages, births, deaths etc., by foreign diplomatic or consular agents is allowed.
2) Do your laws give your diplomatic agents or consular officers the right to exercise abroad the functions of a registrar with regard to your nationals?
Registration is allowed for dual citizens (hence, Israeli citizens that have a foreign nationality may register their marriage or born child at the embassy, issue a foreign passport, etc.). Moreover, consular officers may perform marriages, even when Israelis are involved, but only if both parties to the marriage are not members of a religious community recognised by law in Israel. The recognised religious communities, members of which cannot be a part of a consular marriage are: Jews, Muslims, Druz, Greek-Orthodox, Armenian-Orthodox, Catholics, Syrian-Orthodox, Evangelical-Episcopalian, Baha’i.
3) Is there a central service for consular records?
Prof. Sharon Shakargy
Judge Harry M. Fischer Chair in Private International and Interreligious Law
Director of the Sacher Institute for Legislative Research and Comparative Law
Faculty of Law - The Hebrew University of Jerusalem