Everybody loves a wedding, or so culture would have us believe. However, according to a report from the Reuters news agency, not every Israeli likes the wedding options available in that country:
For most Israelis in the Jewish state, there is one legal way to get married — God’s way.
Israeli law empowers only Orthodox rabbis to officiate at Jewish weddings, but popular opposition is growing to this restriction and to what some Israelis see as an Orthodox stranglehold on the most precious moments of their lives.
Some of Israel’s most popular TV stars and models have come out this week in an advertisement supporting a new bill allowing civil marriage. A political storm is likely when it eventually comes up for a vote in parliament.
The Rabbinate, the Orthodox religious authority that issues marriage licenses in Israel, says it is charged with a task vital for the survival of the Jewish people, and a recent poll showed more Israelis oppose civil unions than support them. Nevertheless, many Israelis want either a secular wedding or a religious marriage conducted by a non-Orthodox rabbi. Facebook pages have been popping up, with defiant couples calling on others to boycott the Rabbinate.
I can’t say, for certain, how long this has been going on. However, I seem to recall that over the past decade, at least, I’ve heard stories from Israelis about booking a flight to Turkey or elsewhere to have a civil wedding, so as not to be under the thumb of the Orthodox hierarchy.
The reasons for avoiding this range from the couple themselves being secular (many, if not most, Israelis are) to not wanting the burden of “proving” their Jewishness to the rabbis’ satisfaction to, well, let’s return to the third potential reason in a moment.
Here’s some more explanation from the Reuters account:
In a twist in the law, the ministry will register as married any Israeli couple that weds abroad — even in a non-religious ceremony — outside the purview of the Israeli rabbinate.
Some couples hop on the short flight to Cyprus to marry. The Czech Republic is another popular destination for Israelis wanting a civil wedding.
[Secular Pilates instructor Stav] Sharon and her husband decided against that option. “Marrying abroad means giving in. We wanted to marry in our own country,” she said.
No formal records are kept on the officially invalid alternative ceremonies held in Israel. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, nearly 39,000 Jewish couples married via the Rabbinate in 2011. About 9,000 couples registered that year as having married overseas.
And, Reuters notes, there are entire other communities in Israel for whom an Orthodox-sanctioned marriage is just not possible: