Dov Haiyun
Dov HaiyunMiriam Alster/FLASH90

A Haifa-based Conservative Rabbi recounted his controversial early morning arrest for marrying a couple without the permission of Israel's rabbinate, which is a criminal offense.

"Yesterday I received three phone calls from the police and said that there was a complaint against me for illegally arranging marriages," Dov Haiyun told Kan. "I told them I was out of town and tomorrow I am at the president's house. They said they would send me a summons."

Haiyun had been scheduled to take part in a study session at President Reuven Rivlin's residence, a commitment he ended up making.

"I was surprised at 5:30 in the morning," continued Haiyun. "The police car was waiting for me downstairs, with bars in the windows. I told them I was on my way to prayer, so they told me I would pray at the station."

Haiyun had been roused out of bed by the police and questioned on suspicion of an offense under section 7 of the Marriage and Divorce Ordinance, which prohibits private marriage and divorce, and establishes a two-year prison term for marriage or divorce without registration.

The arrest had caused outrage across Israel, and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered the investigation halted. The Rabbinate said that it had pressed for Haiyun's arrest after he had married a 'mamzer', or the product of an adulterous marriage forbidden by Jewish law.

Haiyun contended, however, that he had checked the couple's background and had decided that nothing in Jewish law forbade them from marrying each other, adding that the rabbinate agreed after conducting a subsequent probe.

"It is a story of a couple that the rabbinate told them before marriage that they are forbidden from marrying each other," Haiyun said. "They came to me, I checked the subject, and I solved the problem according to Jewish law. Soon, the rabbinical court ruled the same."