Sea of haredim 390.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
During a hearing of the Knesset State Control Committee on Wednesday, Deputy
Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan announced his intention to introduce
legislation that would make it a criminal offense to marry, divorce, or convert
anyone in an Orthodox manner outside of the auspices of state
Ben-Dahan told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that such a
move would prevent instances where, for example, a married man who has
encountered problems in the divorce process seeks to marry another woman. He
already had legislation on the matter drafted, which is being reviewed by the
Justice Ministry, he added.
The state system prevents these situations
and other forms of forbidden marriage because it utilizes a comprehensive
database detailing the marital status of citizens, which is consulted by state
Criticism has been leveled at the proposal, since it
would create further difficulties for people who had converted in an Orthodox,
but independent, rabbinical court.
The Post reported last month
such case, in which a woman seeking to convert in an Orthodox manner encountered
obstruction from the state conversion bureaucracy. She eventually converted with
the independent Orthodox rabbinical court of Rabbi Adin Steinzaltz, one of the
world’s most authoritative Torah scholars.
The woman and her spouse
subsequently married in an Orthodox ceremony abroad because they could not
legally marry in Israel, due to her conversion in an independent
The state rabbinical courts recognized both her conversion and her
marriage but the ministry nevertheless refused to register them as
ITIM, a religious services and lobbying organization, has
advocated for the rights of such people.
“Rabbi Ben-Dahan’s proposal
seeks to consolidate even further the power of the rabbinate. Given the
reputation of the religious establishment, this would further distance people
from traditional Judaism,” said ITIM director and Orthodox rabbi Seth
A petition submitted by ITIM on the issue is under consideration
in the High Court of Justice.
“The rights of people who have converted in
a halachic manner, and which have been approved by state rabbinical courts, must
be protected,” Farber stated.
Ben-Dahan said, however, that such matters
could not resolved in such a manner and that the state had a legitimate concern
in seeking to prevent marriages prohibited by Jewish law.
He added that
he has already spoken with the Interior Ministry on such issues and is
continuing to work to improve the relevant services and bureaucracies.
addition to the issue of private Orthodox religious ceremonies, MK Amnon Cohen
of Shas, chairman of the State Control Committee, demanded at the hearing that
the marriage registration process be simplified for the benefit of couples
seeking to get married.
Cohen said he wanted to arrive at a situation
where couples could register online, in cases where there are no complicating
The Shas MK also demanded that the Chief Rabbinate allow anyone
qualified to serve as a neighborhood rabbi to perform weddings.
is not approved, he said, he will introduce legislation to force it
Currently, only rabbis approved by the Chief Rabbinate may
ITIM handles more than 1,000 complaints and cases each
year. Ben-Dahan said he will be working to formulate a disciplinary process for
chief municipal city rabbis, including the ability to fire them if they violated
The appointment as chief municipal rabbi lasts until
the age of 75, and there is effectively no process to dismiss or discipline
“If the Council of the Chief Rabbinate does not deal with this, I
will advance an amendment to the law so that a municipal city rabbi who violates
disciplinary rules can be removed from his post,” Dahan said at the hearing.