Thursday, June 2, 2016

Israel is Insane # 2: Criminalizing Unauthorized Marriage?

Michael L.

{Cross-posted at Jews Down Under.}

Writing in the Times of Israel, Amanda Borschel-Dan tells us:
There 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.


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.


  1. The rabbinate in Israel has always had far too much power. From day one they claimed exemption for themselves and their followers from the rules that applied to everyone else.
    It is actually worse than that. They used the laws and the mechanics of the state to amplify their power.
    And they get away with it. The last time I checked they still controlled the education system.
    Of course it is a major embarrassment for Israel supporters in the West.
    It's just that we have been more occupied with existential matters to focus on it.

    1. Except that few people in Israel are actually Orthodox observant, frum as it were. After all Argentina and Brazil have 'state religions' too but very few people are actually Catholic in any useful way.

    2. Geoff in government school only religious studies are under the control of the rabbinate.

  2. My brother-in-law lives quite happily in Singapore.

    He might agree with you.

    Needless to say, I do not... but that's OK.

    People are entitled to disagree.

  3. Yes, Trudy, we're picking on the Jews.

    Amanda and I, both.

    You know how much I love to pick on Jewish people.

    It's something of a hobby.

    Really, my secret agenda is to, in a clandestine manner, help out my friends in the BDS movement.

    I'm a crypto-anti-Zionist.


  4. But then again:

  5. Mike you are wrong, very wrong on this one. I think you are 'up the creek' and Trudy is 100% correct

    I am far from being observant but I think this is a MUST for Judaism to survive. We'll end up with weird and very wacky sects of Judaism like those you have in the US.

    One has to prove they are Jewish to be married in a shul and accepted as Jewish, knowing too, so will any offspring.

    I was married in a Liberal shul in England. Being very young and innocent at the time, to me a shul was a shul.


    Until I became involved in life in an orthodox shul and attended the rabbi's shiurs I had no idea I wasn't married in the eyes of Judaism, or I would be asked to remove my children from a Jewish school.
    We then had a stille chupah and were legally married in the eyes of Jewish law.

    We had to prove we were Jewish and I obtained a pre-war wedding certificate of my parents. Likewise when my daughter was married, she had to show our wedding certificate and her husband to be his parent's one.

    If you go outside of Orthodox Judaism there is no accountability there.

    Look at what you have in the US and Michael Douglas is a classic example.

    His mother was not Jewish, yet he claims to be. His non-Jewish son, whose mother isn't Jewish either, has a bar mitzvah of all things, at the Wall.

  6. Shirlee, c'mon, criminal penalties?

    If the rabbinate does not wish to authorize such marriages that is up to them, but criminal penalties from the state?

    It violates fundamental principles of western liberal democracy, in the best sense of that term.

  7. I had to go fishing for wedding and birth certificates and other documents to bury my own mother in the Jewish section of the old Southport cemetery last year.
    And she had been foundation president of the local branch of WIZO.
    My word wasn't good enough.

    1. Heya Geoff,

      I don't know.

      Unlike our anonymous friend below, I am not an athiest.

      My attitude toward the deity is that I am perfectly willing to acknowledge the fact that I do not know what I do not know.

      None of us, if we have even an ounce of humility, can know the will and nature of G-d and I am, therefore, very skeptical of governmental laws grounded in religious notions.

      In fact, this represents my major grievance with Islam which can be summed up in the single sentence of "Stay the f**k out of my face."

      I think that I am starting to get cranky as I get older!


  8. 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.

    1. Well, thank you for this comment.

      It is exceedingly good to hear.

    2. Not entirely in agreement that this is good to hear. Secular MK using none enforced Ottoman law in a divisive manner, While religious MKs are not acting any better.

      One thing is certain, Although this might not be the as bad you depicted here, the public, religious or secular, is the looser here.

  9. Shirl,
    When I was doing exams for my medical course at uni, we learned very early that any answer that said 100%, always or never is incorrect. Mike is very clearly NOT advocating for religious laws to be changed, or for the rabbinate to change any rules, but for civil marriage to not be a criminal offence in a democratic country.

  10. Shirl,
    The situation is much more complex in Israel re marriage. It's really a massive fan of worms. Firstly, as with your situation, there are two separate issues relating to religious law; one about who is Jewish according to Halacha, which does impact the continuation of Judaism, and one about who can be married under a chuppah. On the one hand the rabbinate in Israel does uphold quite stringent, uncompromising rules and standards about meeting criteria for religious Jewish marriage, as they should. One would like to think that food certified Kosher, is definitely kosher, that instruments in an operating theatre are properly sterilised, that one can drive his or her car without worrying that the brakes will fail, and so it is with this. They have had to find other ways to confirm whether both people are Jewish in order to marry, as there is a massive population from the former Soviet Union, the majority of whom are Jewish by Halacha (although the ones who are not Halachadly Jewish are a very large minority, which is the major problem of this situation), but almost none would have had a chuppah in the Soviet Union (except maybe since the late nineties) as both the practice of religion and, paradoxically, Zionism, were criminal offences. Many ex-Soviet olim, would, understandably, decline having a repeat marriage ceremony, regarding it a farce. Many couples would not be eligible for religious, orthodox marriage if either one of them could not demonstrate that they are Jewish by Halacha, but they have no intention to go through conversion, or to be observant. This of course doesn't mean their children aren't Jewish according to Halacha. The rabbanut hoped that couples in this situation, not having the option of civil marriage, would of for orthodox conversion, and this does happen quite a lot, but nowhere near as much as they anticipated. To dictate religion to intelligent, secular people, who uphold democracy, freedom and justice, especially if they are Jews (or in part), was never going to work out.

  11. can of worms.......

  12. Trudy,
    Except those countries you mention are relatively stagnant societies, often with one religion allowed, or certainly a dominant religion, with many discriminatory laws applying to the other religions. Whereas, Israel is a dynamic society, with migration of those who are eligible (ie minimum of a quarter Jewish by blood) very actively encouraged previously, without any consideration of halacha. Israel does uphold freedom of religions, just not freedom of no religion.