The Unmarriageables

A recent edition of The Jerusalem Post revealed shocking news regarding Jews who are prohibited by the Chief Rabbinate to marry in Israel.

A study was conducted by members of the Knesset and the Bureau of Statistics and concluded that 660,000 Israeli Jews are unable to marry in Israel.

The numbers break down into causes. There are approximately 364,000 non-halachic citizens from the former Soviet Union. Most of them are married to a Jewish spouse but are unable to document Jewish parentage and therefore are not legally registered as Jews.

284,000 consists of male homosexuals and lesbians who are denied the right and rite of marriage.

And 13,000 are converts to Judaism by non-Orthodox and therefore non-recognized rabbis.

It is a very severe and painful problem for these Jews. Many have to travel abroad to be married but upon return to Israel the marriage will only be recognized if it was performed by an approved Orthodox rabbi.

It should be obvious that we have a need to change our laws written by the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbis who are despised by the majority of secular Jews in Israel. A new law must be written and sanctioned by the Knesset and the High Court of Justice giving recognition to civil marriages.

Hiddush, a religious pluralism lobbying group headed by Reform rabbi Uri Regev, cites numbers:
20% of Jews register marriages made abroad.

70% of secular Jews would prefer to be married by Orthodox rabbis not under the strict control of the Chief Rabbinate. But a law bans all Orthodox rabbis from performing marriages outside of the jurisdiction of the Chief Rabbinate. Rabbis who perform private ceremonies can be fined and even imprisoned for violating the Chief Rabbinate’s ban.

64% of Israeli Jews approve of civil marriages and the same percent approves of same-sex marriages.

There needs to be a public uprising and a roar of protest against the medieval Chief Rabbinate. The institution of a Chief Rabbinate should be abolished and replaced with municipal rabbis in towns and cities who are under no restriction to perform halachic wedding ceremonies for Jews.

The recent statement by member of the Knesset, Aliza Lavie, is a shocking wake-up call to our law-makers.

“Israel is the only country in the world that puts people in jail for putting up a wedding canopy and conducting a marriage ceremony”.

It is time for us to put an end to religious discrimination and control by out-dated rabbis who may be scholars of Talmud but definitely not religious leaders of this century.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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