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FAQ: The Issue

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What is the issue with marriage in Israel?

In Israel, all Jewish marriages must be performed by the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate in order to be legally recognized by the State. However, the Rabbinate will not marry interfaith couples, same-sex couples, non-Orthodox converts, many immigrants from the former Soviet Union, people who have been divorced and did not obtain a get from the Orthodox rabbinic court (or did and want to marry a Cohen ), and people who do not want an Orthodox ceremony, among others.

This denies some 800,000 Israeli citizens – and many others who would like to be married in Israel – of the right to marry the person they love. It also alienates many secular and traditional Israeli Jews, making them feel that they are not full citizens in their own country.

 

Do Israelis care about this matter?

Yes, and public support has only grown in recent years. A 2018 Smith Polling Institute survey found that nearly 70% of Israelis want the State of Israel to recognize Reform, Conservative, and civil marriages performed there.

Panim, an association of 60 Israeli nonprofit organizations dedicated to building a society that supports Jewish pluralism, also conducted a study in 2018. It found that more than 2,400 Israeli Jewish couples were married outside Israel in 2017, an 8 percent increase from the previous year. The study reported that most Israelis who married abroad were indeed eligible to marry in Israel under the auspices of the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate – but they chose not to. And it’s not that the couples were turning away from Judaism. In fact, the study said, most of these weddings included traditional Jewish rituals.

 

Are there Israeli organizations and political leaders who support freedom of choice in marriage?

Yes. Dozens of Israeli organizations have voiced their support for religious pluralism, including the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the public and legal advocacy branch of the Reform Movement in Israel; Jewish Pluralism Watch (JPW), the nonpartisan advocacy program of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel; and Hiddush, an organization that promotes religious freedom, diversity, and equality.

 

Is there anything being done about it?

Yes. On April 9, Israel will hold their legislative election, and Israeli citizens have the opportunity to cast their vote for leaders who will amend this historic injustice.

Additionally, advocacy groups such as IRAC and JPW have been advocating to advance religious diversity and freedom of religion in Israel and working to create a broadly inclusive Israeli democracy based on the principles of social justice and equality.

 

I’m not Israeli, but I care about this issue. What can I do?

Come to "Three Weddings and a Statement" at Washington Hebrew Congregation on Tuesday, March 26 to witness and celebrate three marriages that would be illegal if performed in Israel. There, you will have the opportunity to sign our petition that will go to Israel’s Prime Minister after the election on April 9.

If you cannot attend but you care about pluralism, equality, and freedom to marry the person you love in Israel, you can sign our online petition – and join us virtually via the event’s live stream.