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Israel's Rabbis Keep Lock On Jewish Marriage

Growing numbers of Israelis demand the institutionalization of civil marriage in Israel, but even with a secular coalition in power this change is not in the offing.
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish bride Hannah Batya Penet dances with her relative during a wedding ceremony in Jerusalem, early morning May 22, 2013. Some 25,000 people gathered to celebrate the wedding of Penet to Shalom Rokeach, the eldest grandson of the Chief Rabbi of Belz, Yissachar Dov Rokeach, according to local media. The Belz Hasidic dynasty is one of the largest Hasidic movements in the world. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun (JERUSALEM - Tags: RELIGION SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTXZWCC

Once Esti and Ronnie decided to live together as a couple, they unanimously agreed to keep out of their relationship any governmental element — first and foremost the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. The Chief Rabbinate, acting as an arm of the state, has jurisdiction over many aspects of the lives of Jews in Israel, including their personal status and, inter alia, marriage and divorce issues.

A couple married within Israeli borders will not be recognized as such until it passes the whole process through the rabbinate according to Orthodox Jewish law. However, for many young Israelis this process is not that simple and it is even regarded as humiliating. A statement by a qualified witness that both would-be spouses are single has to be provided. The prospective bride must undergo the Jewish purification ritual of immersion in the mikve. And an embarrassing probe into the family history of the couple is held to verify that the two come from families known to be Jewish for at least four generations back. Couples who are not willing to go through this Via Dolorosa will not be considered qualified, or kosher, to marry under Jewish law.

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