JIJ Campaigns for the Freedom to Marry
The institution of marriage in Israel has long been in the hands of the Chief Rabbinate, the leading religious authority in the nation. While Israel is a democratic state, separation of religion and state is not always maintained. Civil marriage, a fundamental tenet of democracy, simply does not exist for Jews while inter-religious marriage is illegal. All marriages must be performed by the Rabbinate, and only ultra-Orthodox ceremonies are recognized by the government.
The question, “who is a Jew” for the purpose of marriage is determined solely by ultra-Orthodox authorities: Israeli citizens with clear paternal Jewish lineage are ineligible to marry in Israel because their mothers are not Jewish, and they are therefore not considered Jewish according to halacha (Jewish law). As a result, hundreds of thousands of upstanding Israeli citizens are forced to wed outside of Israel due to either a lack of eligibility or a simple desire to wed outside of the rabbinic system.
Currently, the law grants only those deemed “without a religion” to marry by civil ceremony. “This law is discriminatory and degrading because it requires upstanding, loyal citizens to declare that they are not Jewish if they wish to marry outside of the Rabbinate. This law gives the Rabbinate veto power to decide who is allowed and not allowed to marry his/her fiancé,” said Calev Myers, Founder and Chief Counsel of Jerusalem Institute of Justice. JIJ has been working to change this law by lobbying in the Knesset and coordinating extensive media and advocacy projects to raise awareness in the Israeli public.
Our goal is for any one man to be able to marry any one woman in the State of Israel.
On February 10, 2011, JIJ submitted a petition to the Supreme Court, asking for the current law to be either revoked or extended to all citizens. “Israel cannot bring Jews and the descendents of Jews back to the Land, enlist them in the IDF, require them to pay taxes and then deprive them of the right to marry within their own country and treat them as second-class citizens,” said Myers.
Furthermore, JIJ sponsored and coordinated a massive demonstration against the civil marriage law on February 11 in Tel Aviv. Over 800 people gathered in Dizengoff Square to call upon the government to extend the basic right of civil marriage to every Israeli citizen. Israeli pop-music artist, Daniel Salomon, joined the efforts of JIJ and performed live at the demonstration. The event culminated with a civil wedding officiated by Calev Myers and attorney Ron Lowenthal in Dizengoff Square.
According to Myers, “The Supreme Court is only the first step in the process of achieving the final goal—civil marriage in the State of Israel. Separation of religion and state is a an absolute requirement for a free and democratic state.”
We at the Jerusalem Institute of Justice are committed to fighting for the basic right of civil marriage and advancing justice, freedom, and democracy in the State of Israel. By strengthening the democratic character of the State of Israel, we are building more legitimacy for the Jewish State in the international community.
Thank you for supporting our efforts. We are gearing up for our annual Passover distribution in which we will be distributing fresh foods and grocery store vouchers to needy Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem and new Ethiopian immigrants in the Meveseret Zion absorption center.
Please consider supporting this effort. Through your generous contributions and support, we are advancing justice, compassion, and freedom in the State of Israel.
The institution of marriage in Israel has long been in the hands of the Chief Rabbinate
Over 800 people attended JIJ's civil marriage demonstration in Tel Aviv, Feb. 11, 2011
JIJ's Chief Counsel, Calev Myers delivers speech, advocating for the civil marriage law to be extended to all Israeli citizens
Israeli pop singer, Daniel Salomon, performed live at the demonstration
The demonstration culminated with a civil wedding ceremony officiated by attorneys Calev Myers and Ron Lowenthal