The Tzohar Law came into effect Monday, opening new horizons for couples applying for marriage licenses in Israel.
The law changes longstanding rules regarding where a couple may register for marriage licenses, which are processed through local Rabbinates. Now, Israelis looking to marry will be able to register at the municipality of their choice - not only in their hometowns.
Economics Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) welcomed the move. Bennett's Jewish Home party spearheaded the bill.
"Until today, anyone who wanted to register for marriage had to turn to the religious council in his or her place of residence as listed on their Teudat Zehut (identity card)," he explained on his Facebook page. "We have now changed this situation, and now each couple is allowed to sign up in any city, regardless of where they live. For example, this enables students in Tel-Hai to register for marriage in Tel-Hai and not be forced to register in their childhood city of Be'er Sheva or Eilat."
"It is nice to save people this 'inconvenience,' but the real importance here is the introduction of competition where there has not been before," he elaborated. "I know sometimes it is difficult to think of religious services in these terms, but this is another example of the lack of competition leading to a decline in the quality of service."
"Religious Councils that are more efficient, quick and welcoming will attract more couples, and those Religious Councils will benefit from the couple’s marriage registration fees. In return, the couple benefits from better service," he concluded.
Rabbi David Stav, the Chairman of the Tzohar organization, had a more philosophical approach. Stav's organization was already registering couples from all over Israel in Shoham, the town where he is rabbi, before the law was passed. Stav praised the bill for its ability to make Jewish law more accessible to the masses.
"The Knesset and the Jewish people have a purpose: to continue the historical connection with Israel throughout the generations," Stav explained. "From this commitment, to the past and future of the Jewish people, we begin today [by enacting] another stage in making the institution of Jewish marriage and the Jewish family more accessible to all of the Jewish people."
"Implementation of the law will put an end to the suffering of many converts to Judaism who, despite having converted through the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, are not recognized as Jews by some municipal Rabbinates," he explained.
Not everyone supported the bill, however. Hareidi parties, as well as some well-known Religious Zionist Orthodox Rabbis, opposed the bill - warning that changes to the marriage system could change the face of Jewish marriage within Israel by allowing false information to be given to the local rabbinates, who are too far away from an applicant's hometown to carry out a thorough check of their eligibility to wed in accordance with Jewish law.