So there’s this new Tzohar bill that came through yesterday (or today, or something. I’m a blogger, Jim, not a journalist). Here’s the link to the TOI article.

The gist is, let’s say you live in and are getting married in a hypothetical city called Shmemusalem, where the Rabbinate has a reputation for being, shall we say, unwelcoming to engaged couples, bearing in mind that this author’s wedding was years ago and certain policies have since changed, but still… where was I?

Oh, yes. So, up til now, you could only register your marriage with the Shmemusalem Rabbinate, and you’d just have to have a thick skin, which is really easy when you’re in the midst of planning a wedding, which is generally a regular and non-stressful time in a person’s life. But now that this law has passed, you can ask your married friends, “Hey, which town has a really friendly, accommodating Rabbinate?” And then you could just go to the friendly ones. (There’s a theory that the laws of supply and demand will cause the Rabbinate all over to become more accommodating, but, yeah right.)

Then a friend of mine, Rachel, pointed out on Facebook (link) that this bill has an amendment (update: it looks like the amendment is still up for debate in the Knesset) that is not getting nearly as much press: if a couple in Israel goes around the Rabbinate and has a completely halachic marriage–but doesn’t register it with any Rabbinate in the country–the person who officiated can face up to two years of jail time. (Update: This may extend to the couple as well.)

Here’s the Haaretz article in Hebrew, with a paywall–sorry I couldn’t find a more accessible source. But here’s a translation of a quote:

“Until now, the only way for the Rabbinate to battle this phenomenon was via disciplinary sanctions, or by removing a rabbi who officiated private weddings from the list of rabbis who were permitted to officiate at wedding ceremonies. Now, a criminal liability will also be imposed on those rabbis.”

(There are various reasons why one would want to have a Jewish wedding without involving the Rabbinate, including but not limited to aginut workarounds, instances where the Rabbinate decides that you’re not Jewish because you don’t have all the paperwork, instances where the Rabbinate decides that you’re not Jewish even if you do have all the paperwork, general protesting of the Rabbinate monopoly, etc.)

One second. We want to ensure that Israel remains a Jewish state, the Home of the Jewish People, so… therefore, performing a valid Jewish ceremony is a criminal offense?

I feel like this doesn’t need a blog post to explain how wrong this is. Does it need a blog post? I don’t think it does.

But what am I going to do with all this extra space?

Well, how about, people who think this isn’t a bad idea, you can comment in and tell me why you think this isn’t a bad idea, and then I’ll argue with you, and then we’ll politely and in a friendly manner agree to disagree. (We can also agree to disagree about whether splitting infinitives is okay or not–unless you agree with me that it’s okay, in which case, cool.)

It’s a compromise? The bill never would have passed otherwise? I don’t know, which way is better? I mean, the option to not be stuck at certain Rabbinate offices that Must Not Be Named–that’s good. And yet. Jail time for an extra-legal wedding? Really?

Anyway, as Rachel concluded, “on the up side, new niche market for baking wedding cakes with nail files in them.”