(photo credit: Aner Grin)
Weddings tend to be a public or official demonstration of commitment to a bond,
generally based on love, between two people.
Early Sunday evening, as the
minor Jewish holiday of love, Tu Be’av, set in, a young couple conducted a very
public nuptial ceremony in front of the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, designed in part
to demonstrate against the current situation in Israel, where the only way for
Jews to wed by law is through the Chief Rabbinate.
On Tu Be’av in Second
Temple times, single Jewish girls in white dresses would sing and dance in the
vineyards surrounding Jerusalem, to be observed and subsequently selected for
marriage by eligible Jewish men. The tradition didn’t survive, but the day is
still celebrated as the Jewish equivalent of Valentine’s Day and is one of the
most sought-after dates for weddings in Israel.
So for Stas Granin and
Yulia Tagil, Tu Be’av was the perfect day to tie the knot and an opportunity to
raise their voices in protest against the Rabbinate. Their wedding, which was
the centerpiece of the day’s “Free Love” event, was conducted in a pluralistic
Jewish ceremony by Dr. Motti Zaira.
“We are Jewish enough to serve in the
army, pay taxes and fulfill our civil obligations, but we are not Jewish enough
to get married here,” said Granin, who made aliya from the former Soviet Union
in the 1990s. Granin, 28, and Tagil, 29, are two of an estimated 350,000
Israelis who were recognized by the state as eligible for aliya under the Law of
Return but are not considered halachically Jewish or have had their Jewishness
called into question by the Chief Rabbinate.
Attempts to provide a legal
status to civil marriages between Jews in Israel have been unsuccessful.
Beiteinu’s MK David Rotem recently passed a law allowing civil unions
non- Jews, but the problem remains for the tens of thousands of young
people who are either not halachically Jewish, although though they
perceive themselves as
such, or would have to undergo what they see as an unnecessary probe by
Rabbinate into their background to prove they’re Jewish.
Jewish ceremonies in Israel are not recognized by the law, and growing
of Israelis, including those who are clearly Jewish according to
choosing to either marry outside of Israel and have their marriage
validated upon their return, or simply live as common-law couples.
Granin and Tagil, who bear in their minds the 70 years of anti-religious
oppression in the Soviet Union, wanted to marry as Jews in Israel, even
Sunday evening’s ceremony would not be recognized by the state. They
that they were opposed not to the existence of the Rabbinate, but to the
inability of people to choose the way they marry.
This is the second
public Tu Be’av protest wedding. It was accompanied by street theater,
music, films, dancing and information booths promoting freedom of choice
marriage. It was funded primarily by the New Israel Fund and organized
Havaya, an organization that promotes alternative Jewish life-cycle
and Fishka, a community of young Russian- speakers in Israel promoting
“It is a great mitzva not to marry through the Rabbinate,” said
Eran Baruch, head of Bina: Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew
also supported the event. “The religious establishment’s control over
is distancing many populations, particularly that of immigrants.”