Jewish educator Sarah Eliash, Israel Education prize awardee, founder of the Lehava Ulpana (girls' high school) and head of the Midrasha (school of Jewish studies) for women in Kedumim, expressed doubt this week over the motives behind the Knesset’s decision to raise the minimum age of marriage from 17 to 18.
However, while Eliash cast doubt on MKs’ claim to be motivated by concern for teens’ future, she agreed that teenagers should not be quick to marry – and added that young men and women may not be ready for marriage even when the teenage years are over.
The criticism of hassidic Jewish communities where some young women marry at age 17 was hypocritical, she suggested. “Let them first deal with the permissive culture among [secular] youth” who engage in sexual relationships at even younger ages, she said.
Such relationships “do real damage to their future,” she warned. “We’re talking about sexual relationships with no real interpersonal connection,” she explained.
“Why don’t they share their opinions on that? On the damage done [to children] by the social pressure that pushes boys and girls to live that way,” she wondered.
However, Eliash said she agrees that marriage in the teenage years is often a bad idea. “I think that today in particular, when adolescence is longer than ever, young marriage can definitely be harmful,” she said.
“People need to go into marriage with maturity, with understanding of what family life is, of what compromise and sacrifice are,” she declared.
Even after the teen years, young men and women may not be ready, she noted. “It’s not about the [external] situation, it’s about maturity,” she explained. “A person who is independent and understands where he is going, a person who is used to giving and to interpersonal communication – that person is ready for marriage. But sometimes even 20 is too young."