(photo credit: Avner Zarfati)
A bill proposed by MK Shuli Muallem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi) to bar municipal rabbis from charging couples for performing their wedding ceremonies passed its first reading in Knesset this week.
Currently, according to the law, rabbis working in a particular religious council, from which they receive a salary, are able to charge couples for performing their wedding even if one of the spouses live in the district.
The law does preclude a rabbi from charging couples for this service if one of the spouses lives in his specific neighborhood, but not if they live in the broader municipal area covered by the religious council which pays his salary.
“This proposal is for the benefit of the Jewish people, and principally will help the goal of bringing religious and secular people closer,” Muallem said in the Knesset on Monday. “It is for the benefit of these relations that we have been trying to create relationships over the last year between the world of the rabbinate and our beloved young couples who are want to establish Jewish homes.”
The bill would primarily benefit nonreligious couples who do not have a close relationship with any particular rabbi, the lawmaker explained.
“The proposed bill focuses on those couples that encounter the rabbinical world almost for the first time in their lives on the special day on which they wish to enter into marriage under the wedding canopy,” she said.
MK Yisrael Eichler of the haredi United Torah Judaism party spoke out against the bill from the Knesset podium.
“Does anyone know what the law is for a judge who gives a lecture for payment in the evening? Is a journalist from the Broadcast Authority allowed to moderate a debate? This [bill] says that if you’re a public worker you can’t do things on the side,” Eichler said.
MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid) criticized Eichler’s comments from the floor, accusing him of fighting for the right of rabbis to charge extra money from performing weddings, something which is part of their job and for which they receive a salary.
“I was appalled by his opposition,” Lipman said later. “It demonstrated in clear daylight how he views the rabbinate as a source of power, control and money.
His words indicated that he does not view himself as part of a broader nation and has concern only for himself, his family and those who are like him. On a daily basis Eichler reaffirms why the haredi parties cannot be part of the coalition – their focus on themselves and not the good of the nation is terribly destructive and we have lots of work to do to repair what they have destroyed while members of past governments.”