Getting sort of married for TV

In Israel, ‘Married at First Sight’ – unlike in the US – opts for nonlegal weddings.

Wedding rings [Illustrative] (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Wedding rings [Illustrative]
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
It’s not that arranged marriage is unfamiliar to the general public. Many hassidim living in the country wed after meeting just once. But the new Keshet program that aired Monday night is unlike any wedding you’ve seen before.
Married at First Sight, the new imported format, matches up several Israeli couples who have never met before.
The first time they lay eyes on each other? Under the huppa.
Well – sort of. In the US and the UK, the shows are legally binding, with real weddings and signed marriage licenses.
But in Israel – a country where civil marriage does not exist and weddings are conducted only through the Chief Rabbinate – Keshet opted for a slightly different direction.
According to Ido Rosenblum, the host of the show, the couples taking part won’t be halachicly wed.
“We chose not to perform a halachic Jewish wedding,” said Rosenblum in a recent Ynet video interview, “because of the thought about the other side, the divorce.”
Instead, he said, participants sign a “couples agreement,” which he said is similar to a civil marriage.
In fact, when the show began production back in March, it provoked a harsh response from the Chief Rabbinate.
“The Chief Rabbinate sees the transformation of the institution of marriage into a television program as a desecration of the sanctity of the supreme value of family life and marriage,” it said. “Participants in this program could find themselves in complex halachic situations that could place them and their future descendants in a halachicly questionable status.”
According to Ynet, that response by the rabbinate was one of the reasons producers chose not to hold a halachic wedding as part of the show. According to Mako, the weddings will be officiated by Yotam Yizraeli, a progressive religious activist with the organization Havaya, which is linked to the Bina secular yeshiva.
Rabbi Chuck Davidson, an outspoken activist for marriage reform in Israel, said the rabbinate is being fairly hypocritical.
“I haven’t watched TV in decades,” Davidson told The Jerusalem Post on Monday, and “it’s not generally a good idea to make a rushed decision about who one marries.
But if the rabbinate wants to see a farce, it need not turn on a TV. It need only look in a mirror.”
Keshet was unusually tightlipped about the show, leading up to its premiere on Monday night. Unlike with most of its shows, it wouldn’t allow journalists to preview it in advance. And none of the preview clips promoting the show showed the faces of any participants.
The American show doesn’t have the best track record of success: Of the 12 couples who wed in the first four seasons of the show, just two remain married today. In the UK, all seven couples who have participated are now divorced.
The producers of the Israeli version enlisted a team of four experts, including a psychologist, to match up the couples from around the country.
The show will follow the newlyweds through the first six weeks of married life, including a honeymoon. At the end of 42 days, the couples will have to choose to stay together or separate. The show will air on Keshet 12 starting from the second episode, after the split of Channel 2.
Rosenblum – who lately can be seen on just about every channel, on programs ranging from Kan’s The Chaser to Channel 10’s Gav Ha’uma – said he could understand why people would agree to participate.
“There are those who say that those who are single are free and those who are married are in prison,” said Rosenblum, who is expecting his third child with his wife, Yonit Levi, who anchors Channel 2 News. “I actually think it’s the opposite.”
In the Ynet interview, the comedian was asked if he’d get married to someone he hadn’t met, and he said, “Listen, I once got a tattoo of a girlfriend’s name after knowing her a week.” Today? “It’s been elegantly covered up.”