Sisterhood Blog

In Israel, Civil Marriage Is on the Horizon — But Only For a Few

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

  • Print
  • Share Share

L’Chaim! It’s nearly time to celebrate for the 60,000 Israelis who, until now, were unable to marry in their own country because they are not Jewish according to Orthodox interpretations of Jewish law.

And thousands of Jewish couples will be extremely jealous.

A new marriage registrar, expected to be approved by the Israeli government within days, will pave the way for civil marriage, which, until now, has been non-existent. Right now, valid marriages are only those performed by an official representative of the religious community to which the couple is affiliated — Jewish, Muslim, Druze or Christian.

Those who do not legally belong to one of these groups are defined as “non-denominational,” a group that is primarily composed of those who immigrated to Israel under the Law of Return, which requires a Jewish grandparent but aren’t halachically Jewish.

For most engaged secular Israeli couples, their encounter with Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is something to be endured, and in many cases, is dreaded. In order to be granted the privilege of a Jewish wedding in Israel, couples must produce extensive documentation proving their Jewishness, and are required to undergo Orthodox-style marriage education on family purity laws.

The hassles and headaches of marriage by the Rabbinate sends thousands of these Jewish Israelis abroad for their official wedding ceremony — and such couples are a staple of the tourism trade in neighboring Cyprus. Those heading abroad includes those couples who chose to stand under the chuppah and have their ceremony performed by a Conservative or Reform rabbi, since the Chief Rabbinate refuses to certify non-Orthodox rabbis to perform legal marriages in Israel.

In this climate, it seems certain that the establishment of civil marriage for non-Jews will put pressure on the Israeli government to give all citizens the option of civil marriage.

Already, David Rotem, the Knesset member who is behind the new law, has said he views the measure as a “first step” and will work to make civil marriage available to all. That would include those who want to intermarry, as well as Jews who want their religious ceremony to be performed by a non-Orthodox rabbi, and don’t want to have to fly abroad to make it official.

The Rabbinate and the Orthodox establishment can be counted on to fight such a law tooth and nail.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Marriage, David Rotem, Israel, Civil Marriage, Chief Rabbinate

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.