The Torturous Track to Marriage in Israel

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This week's video blog highlights a Channel 10 News exposé on the Orthodox monopoly on marriage in Israel. The story was filmed with the use of hidden cameras and shows an insider's account of Israel's marriage crisis. The recordings speak for themselves; clearly demonstrating the invasive and traumatic process that many Israelis go through in order to get married.

This degrading experience coupled with the fact that the majority of Israelis support civil and non-Orthodox marriages speaks to the dire need for freedom of marriage in Israel. The Chief Rabbinate's monopoly on marriage completely opposes public consensus in Israel and the acceptable standard practiced by every other Democracy in the world. Israel's marriage crisis has even caused many Orthodox couples to seek out alternatives to the Chief Rabbinate for marriage.

They do so even though they understand that their marriages will not be legally recognized unless they marry again outside of Israel. This growing trend has also been covered by Israeli media. Therefore, it is of no surprise that many Modern Orthodox rabbis are vocally expressing their support for freedom of marriage. Though much of the media focus is on marriage, it is also important to understand that divorce is also an integral part of the problem.

Divorce in Israel is completely run through the monopoly granted to the Chief Rabbinate and the Orthodox rabbinic courts that operate on its behalf. In many cases, the problems surrounding divorce in Israel are more severe than those relating to marriage.

The solution is simple: There is an urgent need to annul the Chief Rabbinate's Orthodox monopoly and give the Israeli public the freedom to choose to whom they wish to marry and how they want to conduct the ceremony.



Here are some transcribed excerpts from the video:

From the conversation between the groom, the counselor, and the Rabbi who subsequently determines the couple's Jewishness:

Counselor: "We need family pictures, you with your mother and with your grandmother"

A: -"But how are the pictures connected to Judaism?"

Counselor: "He looks- he is able to tell from facial expressions. He looks at pictures of you, of your mother, your grandmother"

A: "But not all Jews have the same type of face."

Counselor: "Trust him. He studied this."


A young woman speaking about her experience with the Rabbinate's required relationship counselor: "Eventually it turned into more of a sermon, telling us 'You're not okay,' 'You're not reading Psalms, You're not studying Torah, You don't know anything.'" It was very unpleasant to sit there. I expected to hear about making a peaceful home, about respect between partners, some useful tools for the beginning of our marriage.


From the Tel Aviv Rabbinate's marriage class: "Sometimes you see a child who is very smart, where does his cruelty come from? Why is he so impertinent and cruel? Many parents are guilty of this… They weren't careful about Kashrut. They didnt feed their children Kosher food. Then they don't know what's in the food, what it's made up of. Sometimes it's the small things that appear to be harmless. It could have all types of different ingredients and it influences a person."

Counselor: You live together?

M: Yes.

Counselor: So you can't touch each other for 12 days. It's very important to have those 12 days before the wedding. Live like a brother and sister. Brothers and sisters don't touch each other.


Counselor (on the importance of physical seperation during a woman's menstruation period: "I am convinced that if you prepare your husband his favorite dish every day for a certain amount of time, He won't want to look at it anymore... same thing here.


Tomer Persico, lecturer and blogger on religion and state issues: As someone for whom Jewish tradition is important, I think this is a long-term tragedy. The Chief Rabbinate received a gift greater than gold: to be responsible for the marriages of Israeli citizens. And they are simply desecrating God's name with this responsibility. They're simply turning Jews away from their tradition. They're simply making the Israeli public hate them…. In the state of Israel, there is an Orthodox monopoly on marriage. It's an absurd situation which doesn't exist in any other democratic state in the world.


 A description from a young secular woman about going to the Mikvah (ritual bath): " I was very fearful of the whole situation. It's not completely comfortable to get undressed for the first time in your life, in front of a woman you don't know at all… So now I have to get permission and check off the box, Now I need to abide by these specific laws, that have no connection to my world. They made no attempt whatsoever to explain how this is connected to my world"

In the Mikvah: "Already at this point she started to conduct some sort of questionnaire, If I combed my hair, if there were any knots in my hair, She began to examine me after I was already standing naked, After the shower and everything,

Attendant at the Mikvah: "Show me your fingernails, Did you clean under your fingernails with a file?

B: "Under my fingernails?"

Attendant: "Yes- with the file. To go under the nail with the file. You brushed your teeth, ears, nose?

B: "My nose?

Attendant: "Yes. you have to clean your nose with, you know..."

B: "But why do I have to clean my nose and ears?"

Attendant: "Because of all the body parts that buffer. Let's say, there's dirt in your nose. Then it prevents the water from entering your nose."

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