Debate Magazine

Israel is Insane # 2: Criminalizing Unauthorized Marriage?

Posted on the 02 June 2016 by Mikelumish @IsraelThrives
Writing in the Times of Israel, Amanda Borschel-Dan tells us:
marriageThere are criminals sitting in the Israeli Knesset: legislators who have either performed weddings outside the state’s religious authority, or who have personally been married in such ceremonies.

The Jewish state is one of the only places in the world where it is illegal — with a potential jail term of two years — for Jewish couples to marry as they wish.
I am speechless.
Two years in prison for Jewish couples to marry outside of the state's religious authority?
I have to tell you, if Israel intended to make a law designed specifically to alienate secular Jews then they could not have done a better job then in enacting this unjust legislation.
This law gives fodder to western-left Israel-Haters while, simultaneously, pushing secular Jews out of the pro-Israel community.
Calling the existing law “scandalous,” Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie, who proposed the amendment, said it “opens a door so that tomorrow the state can jail anyone who won’t go to the mikveh [ritual bath], or who won’t have their sons undergo a brit milah [circumcision].”
Lavie’s proposed law would maintain the criminal aspect of weddings performed without registering the marriage. However, instead of a jail term, the couples — and those who perform their weddings — would face a fine.
Do I, as a non-Israeli Jew, get to have a say?
I think that I do.
If Israel wishes to represent the world Jewish community - which as the lone sole Jewish state it does - then non-Israeli Jews are part of that community. When Israel conjures unjust laws that harm the cause of advocacy for Israel, as this law does, then it is the responsibility of those of us within the international Jewish community to speak out.
The very notion of jailing people who marry outside of the rabbinate flies in the face of Enlightenment liberalism which Israel generally claims to represent. Israel is not a theocracy and, thus, should not behave like one.
Although for MK Aliza Lavie to call the existing law "scandalous" is true, to propose even a fine is wrong.
We all understand that while Israel is a secular democracy, like other secular democracies, including the United States, it has a significant religious presence that has influence. Unlike the decidedly non-secular Islamic countries, however, that religious presence does not rule the state.
In a 2013 global freedom of marriage project, Hiddush ranked Israel on a par with Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the fundamentalist Islamic states. It was the only Western democracy in the world to receive this ranking, due to its restrictions on marriage.
Theocratically-based restrictions on marriage within Israel are counterproductive to the well-being of the Jewish State and, I would therefore argue, of the Jewish people, more generally.
I would put my head on the chopping-block for the Jewish people and for Israel, but I will not support such backward legislation.
From the comments:
Adam Henderson · Sports Journalist at Self-Employed
Why not just get married through the rabbinate?
For the obvious reason that not everyone shares identical religious sensibilities and some would prefer to be married outside of the rabbinate. It is one thing for the rabbinate to declare such ceremonies non-kosher, it is another thing entirely for the government to declare them illegal.
Lonna Kahn · Prairie Village, Kansas
Shame on you, Israel, for such an outrageous law. How am I supposed to support you when you are making a mockery of everything I believe in? 
Where in Torah does it encourage this?
Thank G-d for Prairie Village, Kansas.

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