Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Civil marriage to be option for non-Jews

Jul. 18, 2007 20:38 | Updated Jul. 18, 2007 20:44

Israel's chief rabbinate might soon recognize civil marriage in cases where neither partner is Jewish according to halacha, Channel 2 reported Wednesday evening.

Some 300,000 Israelis who are considered Jewish by the state and have been granted citizenship under the Law of Return cannot currently marry under the auspices of the rabbinate.

If a new initiative by Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann is approved, non-Jewish couples seeking to marry will be able to declare their halachic status in their local rabbinate and receive permission to marry in a civil ceremony. Family courts will be invested with authority over the various aspects of civil marriage, Channel 2 said.

However, the report stressed, the new provision will apply only to situations in which neither partner is halachically Jewish. Civil marriage will not be an option for secular Jewish Israelis seeking to circumvent religious ceremonies, nor will it allow a Jewish citizen marry a non-Jewish partner.

The Knesset will most likely pass the bill, as even haredi parties that have traditionally opposed any moves towards instituting civil marriage are expected to support the measure, analyst Sivan Rahav-Meir explained. According to Rahav-Meir, haredi parties have been promised wider authority over conversions.

Shas spiritual adviser Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has already given his blessing to the initiative, and Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar favors it, Rahav-Meir said.
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