Criminalising Unauthorised Marriage?

marriageThere are criminals sitting in the Israeli Knesset: legislators who have either performed weddings outside the state’s religious authority, or who have personally been married in such ceremonies.

The Jewish state is one of the only places in the world where it is illegal — with a potential jail term of two years — for Jewish couples to marry as they wish.I am speechless.
Amanda Borschel-Dan Times of Israel.


Two years in prison for Jewish couples to marry outside of the state’s religious authority?

I have to tell you, if Israel intended to make a law designed specifically to alienate secular Jews then they could not have done a better job then in enacting this unjust legislation.

This law gives fodder to western-left Israel-Haters while, simultaneously, pushing secular Jews out of the pro-Israel community.

Calling the existing law “scandalous,” Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie, who proposed the amendment, said it “opens a door so that tomorrow the state can jail anyone who won’t go to the mikveh [ritual bath], or who won’t have their sons undergo a brit milah [circumcision].”

Lavie’s proposed law would maintain the criminal aspect of weddings performed without registering the marriage. However, instead of a jail term, the couples — and those who perform their weddings — would face a fine.

Do I, as a non-Israeli Jew, get to have a say?

I think that I do.

If Israel wishes to represent the world Jewish community – which as the lone sole Jewish state it does – then non-Israeli Jews are part of that community. When Israel conjures unjust laws that harm the cause of advocacy for Israel, as this law does, then it is the responsibility of those of us within the international Jewish community to speak out.

The very notion of jailing people who marry outside of the rabbinate flies in the face of Enlightenment liberalism which Israel generally claims to represent. Israel is not a theocracy and, thus, should not behave like one.

Although for MK Aliza Lavie to call the existing law “scandalous” is true, to propose even a fine is wrong.

We all understand that while Israel is a secular democracy, like other secular democracies, including the United States, it has a significant religious presence that has influence. Unlike the decidedly non-secular Islamic countries, however, that religious presence does not rule the state.

In a 2013 global freedom of marriage project, Hiddush ranked Israel on a par with Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the fundamentalist Islamic states. It was the only Western democracy in the world to receive this ranking, due to its restrictions on marriage.

Theocratically-based restrictions on marriage within Israel are counterproductive to the well-being of the Jewish State and, I would therefore argue, of the Jewish people, more generally.

I would put my head on the chopping-block for the Jewish people and for Israel, but I will not support such backward legislation.

From the comments:

Adam Henderson · Sports Journalist at Self-Employed

Why not just get married through the rabbinate?

For the obvious reason that not everyone shares identical religious sensibilities and some would prefer to be married outside of the rabbinate. It is one thing for the rabbinate to declare such ceremonies non-kosher, it is another thing entirely for the government to declare them illegal.

Lonna Kahn · Prairie Village, Kansas

Shame on you, Israel, for such an outrageous law. How am I supposed to support you when you are making a mockery of everything I believe in?

Where in Torah does it encourage this?

Thank G-d for Prairie Village, Kansas.

Originally publish at Israel Thrives

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  1. This outdated marriage law sits uneasily with a secular democratic country like Israel. There are many secular Jews in Israel who may not want a religious ceremony, and should not be obliged to become hypocrites by going through something they don’t subscribe to. It’s odd to think that Israel is so progressive in so many ways, with a huge Gay Pride march, but on this aspect it seems it’s kowtowing to the ultra religious.

    • Hi Pam, here is an anonymous remark from over at my joint:

      “As an atheist Israeli I strongly support more separation between religion and state, yet, lets put this into perspective. This law is an inheritance from Ottoman era like many other stupid outdated and not enforced laws. Couples were and are getting married outside the Rabbinate without even the slightest apprehension and according to 2 couples I personally know with less hassle than it would have been had they got married via the Rabbinate.

      This is a do nothing MK coming up with a populist “amendment” to a none-problem (While creating a real problem on the way) as means of getting through to the 80% secular jews, while Religious MKs, that would never have dreamt to pursue an enforcement of this archaic law (did we mention 80% secular jews) are using this platform as means to get some budgetary perks.

      These are not the droids you want, this is a none issue, just bad politicians doing what bad politicians do.”

      I was very happy to read this comment.

      Y’know, I mentioned this story to Laurie and she says to me, “Wait a second. I thought that Israel is a secular democracy.”

      And I said something like, “It is, but like the US it has ‘hold-over’ laws. So, for instance, the reason that Gay marriage is illegal in many states is due to religious reasons. This does not make the US a theocracy. When I was growing up in Connecticut you couldn’t even purchase a six-pack of beer from a liquor store on Sundays. This too was a religiously-grounded law, but it doesn’t make Connecticut a theocracy either.”

      Shirlee was kind enough, btw, to publish this piece even though she is uncomfortable with it.

      I respect that and commend her for publishing, anyway, although I have no idea why she did so.


  2. The Rabbinate has abused it’s power, and has been involved in the “I’m more Jewish than you are” games from a shtetl diaspora. The Rabbinate so valuable in Diaspora is no longer necessary in the forms that were appropriate elsewhere. Israeli Jews are a Landed People again. As valable as our Rabbi’s and Scholars are, they do not trump other forms of governance that our folks have had while Landed. I hope they don’t make transitions and change harder than it must be while we again evolve to meet the challenges of being Jewish, in Israel, in the 21st century.

  3. I just posted this line in an article by Rabbi Apple. It fits here beautifully

    “Those who want Judaism “brought up to date” are not nearly as clever as they think.”

    You cannot have every Tom, Dick and Harry going around marrying people willy-nilly. For a couple to be married according to Jewish law they have to produce evidence that they are indeed both Jewish.

    By being Jewish, I don’t mean one of the weird and wacky American forms of Judaism, and people like Michael Douglas, whose mother wasn’t a Jew, calling himself Jewish. To top that off his son isn’t Jewish and makes his bar mitzvah at the Wall in Jerusalem.