Header Photo Credit

*The stunning photo in the header of my blog is all thanks to Ron Shoshani. Visit his facebook page for more of his amazing photographs of Tel Aviv!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Jew or Not a Jew....Who can say " I Do" in Israel!?

Finally this makes the news!  It's about time. Respect to Haaretz.com who profiled 29 year old Hillary Rubin in a feature article about marriage in Israel.

The issue of marriage in Israel is wrapped up in serious arguments over Jewish identity, Jewish ceremony and Israeli citizenship because of the fact that Israel is a Jewish state. There is no such thing as civil marriage in Israel.  The only state recognized marriage is through specifically approved religious courts.

Of course, there are massive problems with this to begin with, especially for inter-faith couples who are left on their own.

But the less obvious problem is how the state defines a "Jewish marriage" and how this is complicated by the need,then, to define "Jew".  As is usually the case in Israel, a "Jewish marriage" and the "Jew"  is defined by the Rabbinical court, an authority composed of members who follow only the strictest interpretations of Jewish law.

Couples who want to marry must prove their true Jewishness through their maternal lineage since, according to the Orthodox tradition, Judaism is believed to be "passed down" through the mother's blood. But that's not all. Each partner must bring their parents' marriage certificate to the Rabbinical court  to officially document this Jewish blood. And, each partner must also bring either a letter from an Orthodox Rabbi confirming that he knows the marriage candidate personally and that he/she is Jewish and single, OR instead, they must bring two Jewish witnesses each- witnesses who are not related, who have known the candidate for at least 5 years and who are willing to come to the court to testify that you are single.

In the case of Hillary Rubin who is an Israeli citizen, a Jew, and the granddaughter of a well known Zionist activist, Nahum Sokolow, the Rabbinical court shockingly turned down her marriage request demanding that she show official documentation of her maternal Jewish till four generations back.  According to the Haaretz article,

"The Chief Rabbinate recently enacted new guidelines automatically sending marriage candidates whose parents did not wed in Israel to a local rabbinical court to determine whether they are really Jewish."

This is pure tyranny. No one has these kinds of documents...especially Jews! Jews- who came to Israel after their everything was destroyed in the holocaust. Jews who have for centuries been denied equal rights as citizens of their nation.  Jews who, in what is supposed to be their state, in what is supposed to be their safe haven, their homeland, are being told that they are not Jewish and that they cannot marry in the manner they choose.

It is no wonder that most young couples fly to Cypress or Greece to marry, and return to have a "fake" ceremony with a Conservative or Reform Rabbi who don't require them to prove their Jewishness or partake in rituals they don't believe in.

This story in Haaretz comes appropriately at a time when the "Rotem Bill", the bill regarding the particular requirements for Jewish conversion in the state of Israel, is about to be voted on in the Knesset.  If this bill passes, it may surrender all control over conversions to the extremist Rabbinical court and help usher in an age of fanatic, tyrannical and almost fascist government ruled by the religious right. What was once a homeland for all Jews is slowly turning into a monstrously racist and , I'll say it, anti-semitic state.


  1. Interesting post. This is a topic that I am very passionate about and I spent a couple of years living in Israel, interviewing all types of people and following that trying to raise awareness on these topics in the U.S.

    You might find the footage or the material interesting. The documentary is called "Faces of Israel" and the movie trailer, educational materials and all that good stuff are at www.facesthemovie.com

    If you visit the website, let me know what you think!

    Take Care,
    Amy Beth Oppenheimer


  2. Thanks for the comment Amy! I'll definitely check out the site and let you know what I think!

  3. Wow Ray, your blog is great!!!

    I'm a Brazilian, non Jewish girl leaving in Tel Aviv, in love with an Israeli and aware of these problems.
    These subject is something so serious and that mess with a lot of people lives.
    All this pressure and discrimination seems something horrible to me.
    Anyway your post surprised me. Things seems to be becoming harder and harder...
    Will keep an eye on The Rayve.

  4. Hey Vanessa, thanks for your comment. There's definitely lots of problems in Israel- but I can't help but have a love/hate relationship with this crazy country. Thanks for following :)


Let me know what you think!