Sisterhood Blog

Lack of Passion Killed Israel's Civil Marriage Bill

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

  • Print
  • Share Share

Israeli Jews whose choice of partner or form of ceremony doesn’t meet traditional Jewish legal requirements will have to continue to book a flight to Cyprus or Vegas to make their marriage legally valid in their own country, since marriage and divorce are going to remain in the hands of Israel’s Orthodox rabbinate for the foreseeable future.

A bill that would allow civil marriage in Israel went down in a crushing defeat in the Knesset on July 27. Only 17 Knesset members voted for it, with 40 members rejecting the bill that would have allowed Israelis to choose between civil marriage and religious marriage. The bill went down despite a vigorous public awareness campaign and lobbying effort launched in the spring stressing the importance of making it possible for all citizens to “Marry and divorce in Israel according to their choice, faith, and conscience.”

But public opinion was never really the problem. It has been clear for years that a majority of Israelis think civil marriage should be an option for those who have trouble with the rabbinate or who simply don’t want an Orthodox ceremony. The most recent poll, a Tel Aviv University survey released the very same day the bill went down in defeat, found that “63% support the option of civil marriage, 25% oppose it and 12% did not respond.”

Sadly, in the reality of modern Israeli politics, majority opinion doesn’t necessarily translate into a Knesset victory, especially when it means fighting the very powerful and determined religious parties.

For the ultra-Orthodox parties, preventing civil marriage is a priority. For the other legislators, it isn’t something the public is passionate enough about for it to be worth confronting the powerful religious parties.

That lack of passion is, unfortunately, pretty evident. Although they are sympathetic and support civil marriage, it is extremely hard to get average Israelis worked up about making it a reality.

When I bring up the issue with Israeli friends, after they easily acknowledge the injustice of two Israeli citizens being unable to marry in their own country – as well as the absurdity of the fact that Reform and Conservative rabbis cannot perform legally valid marriages in the Jewish state, something else happens.

They shrug. Then they start in with the long list of economic and security issues that they consider far more pressing and important. Unlike the conflict with the Palestinians or the pocketbook economic issues that have recently brought Israelis into the streets to protest, there aren’t many who care about it deeply – perhaps because it doesn’t directly affect enough people.

Unless those fighting for the freedom to marry and divorce figure out a clever way to push the issue up the national priority list, the judges in Cyprus and Elvis impersonators who are wedding officiants in Vegas can rest easy. The business flowing to them from Israel will continue unabated.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Secular, Marriage, Israel

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!
  • 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:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • 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.