The existing marriage law prevents interfaith and same-sex weddings. It also rejects ceremonies conducted by more liberal streams of Judaism popular with American Jews. A poll conducted earlier this year by Hiddush, an organization pushing for religious pluralism in Israel, found that over 70 percent of Israelis support civil marriage.
Some turn to the rebel rabbi out of frustration with dealing with the rabbinate. Others may do it on principle. One Ethiopian Jewish woman who was married by Davidson in October said she objected in principle to the manner in which the rabbinate demands proof of Judaism. The group Havaya helps Jewish couples marry outside the rabbinate by organizing wedding ceremonies for partners who are recognized as common-law couples.
Havaya Director Inbar Oren said the organization has conducted several thousand weddings since it was established in , allowing interfaith and same-sex couples in Israel to enjoy more egalitarian or secular ceremonies than the rabbinate permits. While sending a defiant message, these weddings are not a complete solution. Because they are not legally binding, the couples must still either go abroad or go to the rabbinate for a private ceremony. The Ethiopian woman, for instance, said she and her husband are weighing recognition as a common law couple or flying to Cyprus for a civil ceremony.
No one in Israel has been arrested or charged with participating in an illegal marriage, but Oren and Davidson wish someone would. Thank you for reading!
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