Sisterhood Blog

Debating My Boyfriend Over Israel's Orthodox Rule

By Noga Gur Arieh

  • Print
  • Share Share

Noga and her boyfriend

When I imagined my wedding day as an Israeli Jew, I envisioned choosing one of the alternatives to the Orthodox process. It would be a non-religious or a Reform ceremony, in which my partner and I would be treated as equal, a ceremony in I could express my love, and not stand as an empty, smiling vassal. To my disappointment, I recently learned that my partner does not share this wedding-day vision of mine.

Not long ago, we attended a wedding, and during the ceremony, I spelled out my dream to him. Then, in what turned out to be a part discussion/part argument, he told me he was not willing to skip the traditional Jewish Orthodox wedding. I explained the humiliation I feel just by thinking about all the processes I would have to go through as a Jewish woman. He said he was sorry I feel this way, but that he must put his foot down: tradition is important to him, and he was raised to respect it. The thought of this matter threatening to break us up sometime in the future was unsettling, but I just couldn’t see myself choosing his path.

I am a proud Israeli. I love my country and I am honored to speak for it whenever someone is trying to spin the truth regarding various aspects of the reality here. There are certain aspects, though, that I disagree with, and when it comes to the Orthodox rule, my feelings go far beyond disagreement.

The Orthodox rabbinate is in charge of marriage, divorce, conversion to Judaism, determining if a product is kosher and many other things. This means that same-sex couples cannot be officially acknowledged as married; conversion to Judaism becomes official only after the person who wish to convert proves he or she is living an Orthodox lifestyle; and people whose Jewish roots are not well-established must go through hell in order to get married.

What bothers me the most about Orthodox control, though, is the discrimination against women when it comes to marriage and divorce, which can only be legal if performed by the official Orthodox rabbinate of Israel. One example is the dipping in the mikveh in order for the wife-to-be to “clean up” before being handed to her husband, and, of course, the humiliating process of signing the marriage document, or ketubah in which the father of the bride gives the wife-to-be to her future husband.

This shortlist shows what many liberals before me have stated: that Israel’s commitment to freedom of religion stands in contrast to the powerful position the Orthodox rabbinate enjoys. In recent years, however, more and more people are choosing alternative ways, while sacrificing official state approval, and therefore not fully enjoying the benefits of a married couple (tax reductions, for example). This is something my mother would have never dreamed of doing when she got married, and so she subjected herself to ceremonies she disagreed with.

A few days after our discussion, my boyfriend elaborated on his position. He explained to me that this Orthodox rule, which truly discriminates against women, is the reason we are still here. He reminded me of something I long forgot, which is the fact that the Orthodox rabbinate, the power center of the “Jewish” part of Israel, is our country’s source of legitimacy. Israel was founded as a Jewish state, with the promise that the Jews will never again need to run or hide. It was established on the foundations of a shared Jewish identity, as a place Jewish people from all around the world could call home. “Take that away,” he said, “and we lose our source of legitimacy, the reason we’re all here, not scattered across the globe.”

I still don’t think I’ll be willing to go down the Orthodox path to marriage, and I still oppose the sole Orthodox rule in Israel. But my conversation with my boyfriend made me stop and think.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Orthodox, Israel, Jewish, Halitza, mikveh

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!
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • 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.