The Israel Democracy Institute's Dr. Shuki Friedman took part in a "Nation, Religion and State" coalition meeting under the oversight of Knesset Members (MKs) Aliza Lavie and Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid). The topic: Finding alternatives to marrying through the Israeli Rabbinate.
The Israel Democracy Institute's Dr. Shuki Friedman today took part in a "Nation, Religion and State" coalition meeting under the oversight of Knesset Members (MKs) Aliza Lavie and Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid). The topic: Finding alternatives to marrying through the Israeli Rabbinate.
Currently, according to statistics presented by the nonprofit Hiddush organization, there are 666,000 individuals living in Israel who would not be eligible to register to be married via the Rabbinate.
Friedman told the coalition that, "We are all aware that we need to find an alternative for those who cannot get married through the Rabbinate" and that working with the government is one important route. "We also know that real change comes from the bottom up – from grassroots work. We, the people around the table, need to vote for an alternative."
He said that while most people assume the Rabbinate has a monopoly – and that is true according to the letter of the law – there are already many marriage alternatives in Israel. He said he hopes that the coalition will work to inform people of these choices. Friedman also cautioned that the coalition must consider the impact of its actions as it moves forward.
"Everything we do here can have an effect on future generations. … Every change could alter the nature of the State of Israel. So do it – move forward with a pluralistic agenda, but also think about what the impact will be not only on us, in this room, today, but on our children and grandchildren."
MK Lavie said, "Israel is the only country in the world that puts people in jail for putting up a wedding canopy and conducing a marriage ceremony. Next Sunday, I will propose my bill requesting to cancel these unnecessary and harmful criminal sanctions. We need to confront our country's new reality – more and more young people are choosing to marry without a religious ceremony, without the Chief Rabbinate."
MK Stern said that the current marriage laws were born in a political reality that is disconnected from today's Israeli reality.
"As a citizen, I cannot accept the fact that there are people who want to get married and they are not permitted to do so because the Rabbinate's authority does not allow for it. The impact of this situation is that Israelis have given up hope. There is no hope for the marriage, kosher or divorce services in this country. Therefore, Israelis do not take advantage of the religious services that are provided for them," Stern said. "What happens more and more is that people get married without a ceremony, without converting. We are distancing – not coming closer."
Among the dozens of attendees was Jewish Federations of North America's Senior VP for Global Operations Rebecca Caspi. She expressed that, "More and more
Americans" feel they cannot come to live in Israel for fear they would not be able to conduct their personal Jewish lives in the way they most prefer.
Caspi noted that federations recently established the Israeli Religious Expression Platform (IREP) and will be investing time and energy in educating people about the options available to them for marriage outside of the Rabbinate.
"Despite the political situation we are hopeful that we will see positive changes from the ground up," Caspi said.