MK: No Prison for 'Off Record' Marriages

An MK seeks to change a law which threatens prison for Israelis who don't tell the Rabbinate they are married.

Yaakov Levi ,

Flash 90

The Ministerial Law Committee is taking under advisement a proposal to change the law on marriage and divorce in Israel, which MK Aliza Lavie called “anti-democratic.” According to the current law, Israelis who marry or divorce outside the purview of the Rabbinate must report the fact to the Rabbinate. Those who fail to do so risk being imprisoned for two years, according to the law.

According to Lavie, the law is “problematic from the point of view of freedom of religion and privacy issues.” The intent of the law was to require Israelis who get married outside their home towns by a rabbi in another city – one of the tenets of the “Tzohar Law” – to register their marriages with local religious councils. But Lavie said that it was damaging to the rights of Israelis who choose to marry in “alternative ceremonies. Instead of coping with this problem the Rabbinate threatens imprisonment.”

Lavie filed her objection to the law with the help of the Itim organization. Itim director Dr. Shaul Farber said that “for generations Jews have conducted marriage ceremonies without fear of being imprisoned. Does this law mean that a couple who marries in a private ceremony and seeks a Jewish divorce will be thrown in prison? This is a ridiculous tenet and will hurt primarily Jews who seek to live their lives according to Jewish law,” he added.

The Committee said it would discuss the law. The Rabbinate has not commented on the proposed change.