(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Religious-Zionist rabbinical group Tzohar and the Religious Services Ministry
came to an agreement that will enable the organization to continue performing
free weddings for Israeli couples.
The ugly spat that broke out this week
between the two ended after Tzohar chairman Rabbi David Stav sat down with
Religious Services Minister Ya’acov Margi in the Knesset on
Tzohar had accused Margi and the Chief Rabbinate of dealing
with their free wedding service in a discriminatory manner. The group claimed
that Margi was enforcing regulations on its program that the ministry ignored
when it came to private haredi rabbinical courts. It also alleged that the
bureaucratic obstacles were imposed to safeguard the income of
But after extended talks between the two
sides, Margi agreed to amend a law stipulating that couples must register to
marry in their city of residence.
This will allow Tzohar to continue
servicing the approximately 2,000 marriages it performs every year through the
rabbinate in Shoham, where Stav is the chief rabbi, and through which the group
directs engaged couples to register.
According to Tzohar, the new version
of the law will allow “all citizens of all cities in Israel to marry through the
The Religious Services Ministry had informed Tzohar that
the Shoham rabbinate would only be allowed to register 200 weddings a year, but
according to the new deal, the ministry will now ignore wedding registrations in
excess of this figure until the law is amended.
“This should be viewed as
a major victory for Jewish values and Israeli democracy,” said Stav in a
statement on Thursday.
“We hope that it will be the beginning of
continued progress in healing the divide in society and preserving the Jewish
character of the State of Israel.”
In response to Tzohar’s accusations on
Tuesday, the ministry denied Tzohar’s claims that it was enforcing the law in a
discriminatory manner, and said that it was simply acting in accordance with the
findings of a state comptroller investigation that found “irregularities” in the
application of laws pertaining to marriage registration.
announcement on Tuesday that it would be closing its wedding program in protest
of the ministry’s regulations sparked widespread condemnation of Margi and the
ministry. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, Science and Technology Minister Daniel
Herschkowitz, MKs Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), Haim Amsalem (Shas) and others, all
inveighed against the ministry and stated that they would introduce legislation
to clear any obstacles for couples wanting to make use of Tzohar’s
Tzohar credited Margi’s about-face to the “large-scale public
outcry” which followed Tzohar’s announcement that it would be halting its
“Should this decision have stood, the actions of the Ministry of
Religious Affairs would have directly caused a mass wave of intermarriage and
assimilation, deeply damaging Tzohar’s ongoing efforts to preserve the Jewish
identity of the State of Israel,” Stav said.
“We therefore thank Minister
Margi for reevaluating this issue and making the necessary decision which will
benefit many thousands of Jewish couples in the years ahead.”