meir sheetrit 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Kadima-led coalition plans to present a civil marriage bill that has the backing of the Orthodox rabbinic establishment, but it offers only a limited solution to the plight of thousands of Israeli citizens who cannot get married in Israel.
The bill, drafted by Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit in consultation with leading rabbis, including the chief rabbis, is expected to allow a marriage between two Israeli citizens who are defined as non-Jews according to Orthodox Jewish law and who do not belong to any other religion.
Shas voices opposition to civil marriage (archive)
Only those Israelis who can prove they are not Jewish would be allowed to marry in a civil ceremony.
But to the chagrin of liberal activists, such as Zamira Segev, head of the Forum for Freedom of Choice in Marriage, the bill would not allow a Jew to marry a gentile.
"If that is Kadima's proposal, it is a bill that blatantly discriminates against citizens on the basis of religion," said Segev. "It's worse than nothing at all."
Segev and Rabbi Gilad Kariv, deputy head of the Religious Action Center, the legal arm of the Israeli Reform Movement, wrote letters Monday to Israel Beiteinu faction head Avigdor Lieberman, demanding that Lieberman stick to his demand for legislation that would allow Jewish Israelis to marry gentiles in a civil marriage as a condition for joining the Kadima coalition.
"Israel Beiteinu, a party that champions the interests of immigrants, is fully aware of their plight," wrote Kariv.
"About 300,000 immigrants are denied the right to wedlock by the State of Israel...Israel Beiteinu has the opportunity to force Kadima and Labor to keep their promise to find a solution," Kariv added.
Kariv was referring to the approximately 300,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union who came to Israel under the aegis of the Law of Return and are not Jewish according to Orthodox criteria.
All marriages among Jews in Israel are governed by Orthodox Jewish law, which forbids the marriage of a Jew to a non-Jew. However, the marriage of two non-Jews is irrelevant to Jewish law.
Two years ago, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar voiced his support for such a marriage, which he called a Noahide marriage.
Some rabbis and religious legislators have opposed such a marital arrangement, fearing it would inevitably lead to civil marriages between Jews and non-Jews.
In a related story, the nation's rabbinic courts launched a campaign Monday to encourage thousands of former Soviet Union immigrants of marriageable age to come forward and confirm their Jewish identity according to Orthodox criteria.
Many such immigrants run into difficulties proving they are Jewish after they have already planned their marriage date, said a rabbinic court spokesperson. This causes unnecessary last minute pressures.
The rabbinic court employs five to six investigators who examine documents, interview family members and even travel to the former Soviet Union to track down evidence that could prove the Jewishness of a prospective bride or groom.