A couple stands underneath a ‘huppa’ during their secular wedding ceremony in Tel Aviv..
(photo credit: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)
A Foreign Ministry-produced two-minute video that trumpeted alternative marriages in Israel and was thrashed by both pluralistic Jews and the haredim (ultra-Orthodox) was a “mistake,” the Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.
“I think we erred, we made a mistake,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said in an Army Radio interview.
“Actually, we made two mistakes,” he said. “The first is that we called the video ‘alternative weddings,’ and the second is that we got into an issue that is very controversial and complicated.”
Nahshon explained that the Foreign Ministry produces hundreds of short videos about different aspects of life in Israel and that these are distributed “to great success” around the world.
“But we did not intend on getting into an issue that was so controversial, and certainly not to take a position on this issue,” he said.
The ministry uploaded the video to its Twitter page on Thursday under the caption: “Wedding day is one you’ll carry for the rest of your life, so what’s the best way to get married? Israelis have various ways to celebrate this happy beginning – Watch.”
The video features three couples – Efrat and David, Anat and Hezi, and Daniel and Nitzan – all saying in Israeli-accented English how they got married in their own way. As of Sunday at 5 p.m. the video was viewed some 21,000 times on Twitter, and 97,000 times on Facebook.
Hezi, wearing shorts and sans kippa, is seen walking his bride to a platform nestled among trees, with an umbrella serving as a huppah.
“It was really important for us that the ceremony will be something more personal, something more fit to us,” he said of his wedding that took place two months ago.
His wife, Anat, added: “We had a Friday afternoon wedding, an outdoor wedding between some fields and trees and inside nature. We hadn’t had an orthodox marriage, we got married by a friend. Together we wrote the ceremony and everything.”
David, who got married two years ago, told the viewers: “Do it in your own style, bring your own aspect to things. It is a night that you’re going to remember for your whole life.”
And Efrat, the wife from the third couple who also got married two years ago, said: “In Israel, there’s the orthodox way to get married, through the Rabbinate institute, and we found a path that both of us are happy.”
The video succeeded in infuriating everybody.
Tomer Persico, a fellow at the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and a lecturer in religious studies at Tel Aviv University, tweeted in response: “As someone whose wedding the State of Israel did not recognize, this pathetic attempt at hasbara (public diplomacy) makes me cringe. Israel has outlawed Jewish weddings outside the Chief Rabbinate and recognizes only those performed by approved Orthodox rabbis, blatantly limiting freedom of religion.”
Someone under the name NadavBas replied that his alternative wedding “took place in Cyprus because there are no alternative weddings in Israel. This is a joke.”
And another man, Amit C, posted that he can’t get married in Israel at all because he is gay.
On the other side of the spectrum, the haredi website B’hadrei Haredim reported that Chief Rabbi David Lau
said of the video: “We have an obligation to this generation that those that follow [will] continue the traditions of the previous generations.”
Lau was quoted as saying that it was “irresponsible” to distribute a video that gives a stamp of approval to “weddings that are not done according to Halacha.”
“I hope that someone in the Foreign Ministry will come to their senses and correct this, and the sooner the better,” he said.
Shas MK Michael Malkieli was quoted as saying: “The Foreign Ministry is supposed to be a symbol and an example of the Jewish state towards the world. A video like this is a serious blow to the image of the Jewish state.”
Despite the criticism and the admission of error, the video had not been removed from the Foreign Ministry’s Twitter or Facebook pages as of Sunday evening.