Daily Israel Report

Rabbi Elyashiv Agrees to Allow Civil Marriage between Non-Jews

Rabbi Elyashiv agrees to allow civil unions between non-Jews, a change in Israel's status quo. Chief Rabbi Metzger supports the decision.
By Avraham Zuroff
First Publish: 3/19/2009, 12:45 PM / Last Update: 3/19/2009, 1:15 PM

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Rabbi Metzger will not move an inch away from Rabbi Elyashiv’s position. As far as we’re concerned, it’s the Holy of Holies.
In wake of Yisrael Beiteinu's coalition demands to permit civil marriage, rabbis involved with conversion and civil marriage met Wednesday night with Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, one of the world’s most prominent authorities on Jewish law, and presented their conclusions before him.

The members of the committee, Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, Rabbi Ephraim Zemel, Rabbi Yitzchak Goldeknof, and others, voiced their recommendations in depth. According to Lada’at, Rabbi Elyashiv subsequently replied that he views that civil marriage could only be allowed between non-Jews if they affirm their status before a rabbinical court. Rabbi Elyashiv additionally requested that only a non-Jew should be allowed to officiate at a civil union between two non-Jews, who should be married by a non-Jew as presently occurs within the Druze and Christian communities.

Towards the end of the meeting, Rabbi Elyashiv invited the rabbis to accompany him to a meeting previously scheduled with the Rebbe of Ger, Grand Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, at his home.

The rabbis, who subsequently presented their conclusions to Rabbi Alter, also met later with Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, who affirmed the positions of Rabbi Elyashiv and the Gerrer Rebbe.

A UTJ spokesman who was contacted by Israel National News to confirm the outcome of Wednesday night’s statements by Rabbi Elyashiv, however, declined to comment on the matter.

A spokesman for Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger refused to confirm or deny Wednesday night’s statements by Rabbi Elyashiv. He told Israel National News: “The Rabbinate has not reached a decision in the matter until it receives Rabbi Elyashiv’s position. Rabbi Metzger will not move an inch away from Rabbi Elyashiv’s position. As far as we’re concerned, it’s the Holy of Holies.”

The compromise decision correlates with previous rulings by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who also has gone on record permitting civil marriage between non-Jews. However, a few weeks ago, various media outlets reported that Rabbi Elyashiv opposed any compromise in allowing civil marriage between non-Jews. He previously explained that if civil marriages between non-Jews were to be allowed, it would set a dangerous precedent for the High Court, which might allow civil marriage between Jews, as well.

One of the platforms of Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) advocates the legalization of civil marriage. The party, which many Russian immigrants support, has pushed the civil marriage issue during coalition talks with the Likud. In contrast, the religious parties, including United Torah Judaism, view the push for civil marriage as a break in the current status quo.

Under a status quo agreement on religious issues, signed between then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and religious parties, marriages in the State of Israel must be performed by a religious court.