There is legal precedent for long-distance weddings 

Hiddush on the cutting edge of marriage freedom

Hiddush - for Freedom of Religion and Equality has warned Minister Deri that if he does not cancel his suspension of legal marriage registrations held through video conferencing under Utah state law, Hiddush will be forced to petition the Supreme Court.

Aryeh Deri, source: WikipediaAryeh Deri, source: Wikipedia


From the Jerusalem Post:

Five couples who got married in an online civil ceremony under the auspices of the US State of Utah are set to file a petition to the High Court of Justice against the Interior Ministry’s decision to freeze the registration of their marriage.

Last week, it emerged that four Israeli couples got married in a Utah online civil marriage ceremony without ever leaving Israel, a service the state began offering at the beginning of 2020.

The four couples then obtained apostilles, an internationally recognized legal instrument validating official documents, for the official document they had received from the State of Utah and presented the documentation to their local branch of the Population and Immigration Authority.

Two of the couples had their weddings successfully registered by the authority. But when officials raised questions about the other two couples, an order eventually was given by Interior Minister Arye Deri, head of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Shas Party, to freeze the processing of the registration requests.


Following the storm over the civil weddings of Israeli couples conducted by video conference in the State of Utah, USA, Hiddush - for Freedom of Religion and Equality turned to the Minister of the Interior, Rabbi Aryeh Deri. In Hiddush’s warning letter, the NGO demanded that he immediately cancel his order to the Population Authority to stop registering these marriages in the Population Registry, as required by law.

According to Hiddush the Interior Minister’s decision is outside the scope of his authority; it contradicts the consistent rulings of the Supreme Court; and it is not based on respect for the law, as Rabbi Deri is claiming. Rather, his order was based upon his extremist religious worldview, according to which marriages of Jews performed outside the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate should be prevented, and according to which the religious decrees of the Shas party’s Torah sages take priority over the laws of the State of Israel and its civil courts.

According to Hiddush's letter, which was also sent to the Attorney General and to the Director General of the Population Authority, the Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev, Esq., clarified that these marriages took place online, under the laws of the State of Utah, which are valid in the USA. Therefore, the marriage certificates issued by the Utah State authorities, just like those issued for all other civil marriages held in any of the fifty United States, are lawful; and they should continue to be routinely registered by Israel’s Population Authority for all Israeli citizens and permanent residents. This has been the case ever since the Supreme Court repeatedly rejected the State’s attempts to avoid this alternative channel for marriage.

These marriages took place online, under the laws of the State of Utah, which are valid in the USA. Therefore, the marriage certificates issued by the Utah State authorities, just like those issued for all other civil marriages held in any of the fifty United States, are lawful.

In its letter, Hiddush revealed that the registration of valid, long-distance weddings has a real precedent. Two years ago, Hiddush took action to facilitate the arrangement and registration of a civil wedding for an Israeli couple abroad through an online ceremony. In this way, the couple was registered as married in Israel’s Population Registry, based upon a marriage ceremony performed by a rabbi in the state of Montana via a live video broadcast and a valid, official Montana State Marriage Certificate.

Hiddush clarified in its letter that “If the suspension of marriage registrations is not revoked, there seems to be no avoiding a referral [of this case] to the courts to reimpose their sentence on the [government] machine, in order to protect the rights of Israelis who are forced to seek remedies for the violation of their right to marriage in Israel, forced to marry in foreign countries, which respect this basic human right, according to their laws.”

Hiddush has been working for years to advance freedom of marriage in Israel, and it has built an informative website dedicated to this battle. Among other things, the website compares the situation in Israel to that of the rest of the world, showing that Israel is the only Western democracy in the world that denies its citizens freedom of marriage. The site also presents many public opinion polls commissioned by Hiddush, according to which a large majority of Israel's Jewish public supports freedom of marriage and opposes the Chief Rabbinate's monopoly over marriages of Jews in Israel.

In addition to the battle for immediate recognition and registration in the Israeli population registry of marriages of Israeli couples in Utah conducted online, according to its laws, Hiddush is preparing to offer this service to Israeli couples who either cannot marry in their country or are not conscientiously willing to get married under the auspices of the ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate, as required by Israeli law today.

We are pleased to cooperate in this matter with Rabbi Sam Spector, Rabbi of the Reform Kol Ami community in Salt Lake City, a social and public activist who supports the values of pluralism, freedom of religion, and civil rights. Rabbi Spector agreed to work with us to create a marriage channel for the Israeli public, and we will announce the details soon.

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