'Standardize marriage process'

Cabinet Secretary Yehezkel admits "it's not going to be easy."

yehezkel 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
yehezkel 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
A new government initiative spearheaded by Cabinet Secretary Ovad Yehezkel aims to improve the processing of issuing marriage licenses by standardizing the process nationally. "It's not going to be easy," Yehezkel told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. "I know I'm going to be in a debate with the haredim, but they won't be able to say anything about the [reforms]. I'm just improving the services. I'm not dealing in halacha [Jewish law]." He said he is very motivated to bring national marriage registration to Israel, making the entire marriage process a more positive experience. "There is no protocol," said Rabbi Seth Farber, director of the Jewish Life Information Center (ITIM), which supports the move. "In a striking way, the law allows someone to get married in Netanya one day and then in Jerusalem the next day. No one would know, which leads to a certain type of openness in the registration process." ITIM is dedicated to helping Israelis navigate the marriage system, which is dictated by the Chief Rabbinate and its branches spread across the country, each maintaining a variant of the standards necessary for couples to get married, Farber said. "Having one marriage registration would in a sense put a significant amount of pressure on the system to create a standard, which could be a positive thing. It could get rid of the ill practices and corruption. On the other hand, depending on who would be making the [standards], it could be a greater problem for a significant number of people in this country." Issues surrounding conversions and proving Jewish identity could be potential problems for secular Jews, he said, adding that new standards may lead to an even more intimidating and alienating experience for secular couples. Most rabbinate branches require brides to study the tradition of the mikve and attend one before the marriage ceremony, according to Farber, who also said that the process can often be humiliating for a secular bride. In Zichron Ya'acov, there was a couple that was not issued a marriage license until eight months after their ceremony because the bride had not gone to a mikve, he said. A year ago ITIM designed a national marriage registration form as an example of what could be used nationally. "[The form] meets traditional requirements in the Orthodox community, but speaks the language of the secular Israelis," Farber said. The form was constructed with the understanding that the Orthodox marriage requirements are being implemented on a non-Orthodox population, he added. Concerns that the reformed registration process would stray from halacha were raised by Rabbi Alan Haber, director of the Mevaseret Yerushalayim Orthodox seminary for young women. "We don't want to get to a situation here in Israel where we don't enforce halachic standards uniformly," Haber said. "The only body that is able to do that is the Chief Rabbinate. So, anything that will improve the functioning of the system, lessen bureaucracy and make things more efficient... I would be in favor. But only if the halachic standards remain as they are and are not comprised."