Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It's Not Just Christians that Get Wacky About Marriage

israel, marriage, muslim, druze, christian,
I've written a lot about Christians in the US that feel a need to butt into other peoples' marriages.* Today, I discovered that Christians haven't cornered the market on marriage wackiness. The Israelis have, in fact, taken marriage wackiness** to a place US Christians never even dreamed of.

You see, even though 70% of Israel's Jews identify as secular, marriage between Jews is entirely in the hands of the ultraorthodox Rabinnate, who can, and do, decide who can marry and who cannot. If the Rabinnate decides that you aren't quite Jewish enough for them, or that you're marrying someone who isn't Jewish enough, you can't get married inside your own country. You have to travel to some other country to get married, which is what happens in 1 in 5 marriages in Israel. (Your marriage will be recognized once you reenter Israel.)

Israel has passed control of all matters relating to personal status – births, marriages and divorces, and deaths – to rabbis belonging to the strictest stream of Judaism, Orthodoxy.


Official figures show that as many as 350,000 Jews are classified by the rabbinate as having “no religion”, and are therefore unable to marry in Israel. Their only option is to wed abroad – the marriage is then recognised on their return.


Mr Kornfeld said the rabbis’ grip on marriage has continued even though nearly 70 per cent of Israeli Jews defined themselves as secular. Even among the religious, some regard themselves as belonging to the more moderate Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism.


Israel’s Muslim, Christian and Druze citizens – comprising nearly a fifth of the population – have their own separate religious authorities who are given exclusive oversight of weddings.

There's no mention of what happens to atheists, agnostics and the other "others" that must live in Israel (we're everywhere), but I'm guessing the nonreligious in Israel don't generally make a lot of noise about it. There are no provisions at all for interfaith marriages.

I'm trying to imagine this, and I really can't. I think that any religious involvement in government recognized legal statuses is inappropriate at best and should be abolished. Marriage in the US should follow the model of some European countries: all officially recognized marriages are secular, performed by a Justice of the Peace. The religious can then go have a second, religious ceremony, but that ceremony has no legal meaning. This entirely separates church and state, which is a good thing.

Israel has gone entirely in the opposite direction, ceding control of a legal ceremony to religious groups, to the point where those not pleasing to said religious group must leave the country to obtain the legal advantages of marriage. What happens to those unable to afford a trip to Europe to get married? Well, you need only look at the experiences of gay couples in the US to see that. It's not pretty.

I thought the US had ceded a little too much democracy to the Christian majority, but the supposed democracy of Israel has us beat by a mile. It's not good for anyone.

*You can search by gay marriage if you haven't read my thoughts on the subject, but for the lazy, shorter me: none of your business who gets married or how they run their marriage.

**Attending the World is a proPalestinian blog, but I did find numerous confirmations of their description of Israel's marriage laws from neutral parties.


  1. Totally off-topic, but I thought you might find some humour in this;


    And yeah, the marriage thing is fucked up too!

  2. i knew this, but never really thought about it before - i have a few friends who have dual citizenship because of this stupid law (i.e., parents came to US and lived here on GreenCards for a while, got married and had a couple kids, *then* went back to Israel - so that A) parents could get married and B) so that kids could leave Israel if they wanted later in life. every single one of these was a mixed-marriage of some sort. Christian/Jewish being the second most common - the MOST most common was secular jews *period*, where one of the parties to the marriage is actually USian but allowed to go to Israel because of being Jewish (i still don't totally understand the rules of "Disaspora" to Israel, so i might be partially wrong on something here...)

    CRAZY!!! the absolute WORST of it is, when people were actually doing Zionism back in, say, 1890, one of the reasons they wanted a Jewish State of their own? was to GET RID OF STUPID MARRIAGE LAWS - laws that prevented Jewish people from marrying non-Jewish people that existed in most of Europe. now, Israel doing one of the main things that CAUSED the creation of Israel!

  3. Thank you for reminding me of how racists Orthodox Israelis are. A pretty darn good example that racism happens in all cultures, depending on who has the power.

    When I was a Christian, it made sense to me that the Jews had to marry Jews, because God is supposed to be blessing His people in a particular way, so that if you marry a "gentile," you are losing your blessing.

    But as a non-believer in the Judeo-Christian God and the Bible, I can see that all that crap about the "blessing" is pure, unadulterated racism. I am sure secular Israelis would agree.

  4. Ultra-Orthodox Jews are every bit as crazy as extreme fundamentalists in other religions.

  5. My first exposure to ultraorthodox jews: the city I live in has a large community of UOJ's in one section of town. (They all live in about a 6 block radius of the temple, because they have to walk back and forth to temple on shabbos.)

    I didn't live in that section of town when I moved here, and they're very insular, so I never really noticed them until October. Purim. When I was driving (back then I still drove) through that section of town and nearly ran over 3 drunk 13 year old boys passed out in the middle of the street. See, if I, at 19, had been passed out drunk in the middle of the street, I would have been arrested. But that area of town was filled with absolutely wasted minors, and that's fine.

    Absolutely wasted minors in bizarre hats.

  6. PF, I just made the rather big mistake of reading your comment with my mouth full of orange soda.


Comments are for you guys, not for me. Say what you will. Don't feel compelled to stay on topic, I enjoy it when comments enter Tangentville or veer off into Non Sequitur Town. Just keep it polite, okay?

I am attempting to use blogger's new comment spam feature. If you don't immediately see your comment, it is being held in spam, I will get it out next time I check the filter. Unless you are Dennis Markuze, in which case you're never seeing your comment.

Creative Commons License
Forever in Hell by Personal Failure is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at foreverinhell.blogspot.com.