Knesset c'tee discusses reforms to marriage process

Several religious services and rights groups explain to c'tee difficulties experienced by couples seeking to register for marriage in Israel.

Wedding dance 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Hiddush)
Wedding dance 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Hiddush)
Heavy criticism was leveled at the marriage registration process on Monday during a hearing of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, while several proposals for solving the problems were also discussed.
Several religious services and rights groups present at the hearing explained to the committee some of the difficulties commonly experienced by couples, and especially women, seeking to register for marriage in Israel.
Committee chairwoman and Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie said that the behavior of marriage registrars in local religious councils was unacceptable and is one of the causes behind increasing numbers of people seeking civil marriage abroad.
“It’s inconceivable that despite the fact that the Religious Services Ministry issues clear directives, marriage registrars are in effect a law unto themselves,” Lavie said during the hearing.
“The behavior of the establishment responsible for marriage registration is pushing large sections of the public, who would ideally prefer to marry according to Jewish tradition, to chose civil marriage.”
Some of the problems discussed were the refusal of some marriage registrars to accept the testimony of women as to the “single” status of their friends, a clarification required in the marriage registration process.
As reported by The Jerusalem Post in December, numerous local rabbinates have refused to allow women to testify for this purpose, despite the fact that such testimony is not tied to Jewish law, does not contravene Jewish law, and the Chief Rabbinate has authorized female testimony for questions of marital status.
The committee heard, however, that legislation is already in the pipeline to create a single jurisdiction for marriage registration, as opposed to the current situation in which a couple must register in the city of residence of one of the spouses.
The legislation is designed to increase competition for registration and other administrative fees, thereby creating motivation for local religious councils to improve their provision of services to the public.
Rabbi Uriel Ganzal, a member of the Tzohar rabbinical association, which has promoted the legislation, said marriage registration was a “fateful issue” for the Jewish people.
“The state took upon itself the framework for Jewish marriage so that we would not split into separate entities, so we have to create a pleasant and comfortable experience when providing such services,” said Ganzal.
Another issue discussed was the frequent refusal of marriage registrars to validate prenuptial agreements pertaining to divorce, in contravention of the law, as well as the failure of marriage registrars to inform couples about the possibility of signing such agreements.
Prenuptial agreements drafted in accordance with Jewish law have been advocated by women’s rights groups in order to prevent the phenomenon in which husbands refuse to grant their wives a bill of divorce, thereby preventing her from remarrying and having children.
Mavoi Satum, a women’s rights organization, has proposed a bill by which a couple registering for marriage would automatically receive a rabbinically approved prenuptial agreement form. The bill has the support of Deputy Religious Services Minister Eliahu Ben- Dahan.
“We hope couples never have to use the agreements, which are seen as ‘unromantic,’” said Mavoi Satum director Batya Kehana. “But these agreements guarantee that neither side keeps hold of their spouse against their will.”