Not My Bayit Yehudi

A week ago, I wrote a post about Naftali Bennett’s Tel Aviv International Salon talk. I talked about how he advocates for a more hands off government when it comes to everything but marriage; that he is perfectly content with the monopoly the Rabbinate has in this arena. I wanted to ask him about how he plans to handle LGBTQ+ marriage, as well as the many problems most converts face when they decide to wed, but alas I was not called on during the Q&A.

However, last night (Sunday night) I fared better. The Salon, along with AACI and the Jerusalem Post, hosted an Elections Debate. The debate featured members from several parties, including Bait Yehudi, represented by Uri Bank. The second I realized that the floor was about to be opened up to the audience for questions, my hand shot up into the air, Kassam style (in medical school I would be what is known as a gunner). It was also International Women’s Day, and they were eager to call on a young woman. It’s a good thing I look 19 because I was called on first.

I guess it’s an issue on everyone’s mind – my question was received with wild applause and whistling. I felt like I had just scored a touchdown from an offside. Whoosh! Nothing but net! That’s totally a thing, right? I don’t know; balls and I don’t really mix.

I meant in games. Heh, I mean…

Anyway, my hashtag humblebrag is not the point. The point is that I finally got the response I was looking for.
The Rabbinate Monopoly: Not a game for children (photo credit: adapted from Flickr)

Well, more like an answer to my question. Really it was mostly side-stepping and parading Ayelet Shaked around as the token secular Jew. I mean, qualifying your response with “I’m not trying to avoid the question” is akin to “I’m not a racist/homophobe/misogynist but…”

The TL;DR version: A purely civil marriage option would only be applicable if this were a regular democracy. But since this is a Jewish democracy we have to fit this around the Torah.

Glad we cleared that up. All people who want a civil marriage are really concerned about how the Torah fits into the picture. Not like any of them want to just, you know, get married and build a life with their partner of choice.

Maybe I’m being unfair. Perhaps Uri was just taken aback by the overwhelming support for dismantling the monopoly the Rabbinate has on marriage in a supposedly free and democratic country. Perhaps he didn’t expect to be the only person at the dais not in favor of civil marriage. Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid), an orthodox religious leader, welcomed the question with applause. Uri Zachi (Meretz), along with the audience, actually booed him. Or maybe Bait Yehudi party members are just used to the Jonestown-ian vibe that abounds at their rallies, where people blindly agree with everything they say and he didn’t know how to handle such a direct opposition.

Either way, his response was a non-answer. It was evasive and didn’t actually address any steps the party would plan on taking. Probably because it wouldn’t: Bennett said flat out that he doesn’t believe in gay marriage.

Beyond the fact that his retort was completely lacking in meat (maybe he was planning a dairy dinner), I was personally affronted. Uri called for a compromise, but not getting married because someone else says I can’t isn’t a compromise. Telling me that civil marriage has no place in a Jewish democracy is flat out insulting: I may be completely secular but have nothing but the utmost respect for my Jewish heritage, ancestry, tradition and culture. I identify as Jewish even though I believe that the State of Israel should legalize civil marriage.

Uri Bank, did you just tell me that I’m not really Jewish?

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Former IDF Soldier
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