There are nine officially recognised churches for the purposes of marriage. At the same time, special arrangements for the recognition of marriage were made between the State of Israel and the Lutheran , Ethiopian Orthodox , and Coptic Orthodox churches. Christians may seek official separations or divorces, depending on the denomination, through ecclesiastical courts. In , separate Druze courts were established to deal with personal status issues in the Druze community, alongside the rabbinical courts, the Sharia courts, and the courts of the Christian communities.
The issue became acute when large numbers of immigrants olim from the former Soviet Union arrived in Israel in the s. Although they became Israeli citizens under the Law of Return , some of the olim were not considered Jewish by the rabbinate, which requires proof of maternal Jewish descent. Partial recognition of civil marriage[ edit ] In the Supreme Court of Israel ruled[ citation needed ] that marriages entered into outside Israel conducted by a rabbinical court in accordance with halakha must be recognized in Israel.
The case before the court involved a couple who were not residents or citizens of Israel at the time of their marriage. However, commentators have noted that the case did not deal with a situation where one or both of the couple were residents or citizens of Israel, nor with a civil marriage abroad. The issue of recognition of civil marriages is of special significance in Judaism because Orthodox Judaism has various prohibitions involving marriages.
This includes, but is not limited to, restrictions on marriages involving a mamzer and by kohenim. Such marriages will not be sanctioned by religious authorities and as there is no form of civil marriage, cannot be formally entered into in Israel. The couples in these prohibited marriage situations sometimes marry overseas, mostly in Cyprus , which is near Israel.
This judgment was interpreted as a minor technical issue,[ who? In , the Supreme Court voted to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other countries. In , Israel passed the Civil Union Law for Citizens with no Religious Affiliation, ,  allowing a couple to form a civil union in Israel if they are both registered as officially not belonging to any religion. The main argument of the supporters of the system is that a change of the status quo agreement will divide the Jewish people in Israel between those who marry according to Jewish religious standards and those who marry in a civil marriage.
Civil marriages would not be registered or scrutinized by the rabbinate. In certain circumstances, such as when a woman who was previously married according to Jewish religious standards entered into a civil marriage without obtaining a religiously-valid divorce decree get , the children produced by civil marriages could be considered illegitimate or mamzerim , which would prohibit them from marrying any Jew who was not also a mamzer.
Opponents of the status quo agreement consider the system to be contrary to people's civil rights. In , roughly 9, couples registered with the Central Bureau of Statistics that they were married overseas. Support for religious marriages[ edit ] Supporters of the status quo agreement argue that: When people are married according to Jewish law and subsequently divorce civily, children from a subsequent marriages of the woman will be mamzerim, who are severely limited by Jewish law in whom they can marry.
This, together with acceptance of non-Orthodox conversions, will split the Jewish people into two groups that can not marry one another. Marriages in the rabbinical court preserve the holiness of the state of Israel and add a spiritual and religious dimension of family purity according to Jewish religious laws.
Civil marriage will lead to assimilation and intermarriage. Marriage in the rabbinical court, it is argued, is a guarantee to the continuation of the existence of the Jewish population in the state of Israel. A secular legislator is incapable of understanding the importance of religious halakha standards to the religious community.
From a religious standpoint, a religious ceremony causes no harm even though it imposes halakhic standards on non-religious Israelis—it is even considered by the religious community to be a mitzvah , a noble deed.
Support for civil marriages[ edit ] Supporters of civil marriage in Israel argue that the status quo agreement violates the rights of Israeli citizens by: It also prohibits widows who did not have any children from a previous husband from getting remarried without passing halizah. Supporters of civil marriage also argue that the status quo agreement is in breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , Article 16, which states that "men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race , nationality or religion , have the right to marry and to found a family.
In cases when people requested to proclaim themselves as being " non-religious ", in order that the court would be able to recognize his or her marriage according to an acceptable civil judgment, the court rejected their assertion. The only time in which the Court determined that the Ministry had to recognize a marriage between a Cohen and a divorcee was when it was based on the religious law that determines that those are forbidden marriages from the start but allowable post factum.
One method is to marry outside Israel; nearby Cyprus became the most convenient venue for many Israelis. Paraguay , which allows marriage without the presence of the couple to be arranged by the Paraguayan consulate in Tel Aviv, is another jurisdiction used. Another approach is to resort to what is called a " common-law marriage ".
A common-law marriage entitles the partners to most of the rights of a formally married couple in relation to inheritance , pensions and the landlord and tenant matters. However, the status of common-law marriage is not equal to that of formal marriage in many fields.
For example, exemption from military service for a married woman only applies to a formally married woman. Jurist Frances Radi supports these attempts to "bypass the law in legal ways", but points out that the necessity of an Israeli to resort to the use of a foreign state in order to get married diminishes the value of the alternative ways to get married. In her view, "the existence of those minor alternatives only points out the lack of the respect to secular values that the Israeli judiciary demonstrates".
Others such as Rabbi Chuck Davidson conducts religious weddings outside of the framework of the state . Under Israeli law he can be jailed for up to two years, although this law has not yet been tested by the courts, a situation Davidson would welcome.
Political attempts to resolve the situation[ edit ] In the late s the Independent Liberal party attempted to enable civil marriages for couples who could not marry in rabbinical courts; however, this attempt caused a governmental crisis. The left-wing Meretz party, and its historical component parties Mapam , Ratz and Shinui have been trying to allow civil marriages in Israel for a long time, but without success.
At the start of the 21st century several rabbis including the chief Sephardi rabbi of Israel, Shlomo Amar said that the great alienation that this situation creates does not serve the religious interest. As part of the coalition agreement for Ariel Sharon 's second government, the Shinui party demanded that a legal solution be found for those who could not marry within Israel.
This committee, which was led by Israeli parliament members Roni Bar-On , Yuri Stern , Nisan Slomianski and Roni Brizon, and represented parties from the wide political religious spectrum from the Shinui party to the Mafdal party, eventually submitted a bill by which there would be a separate status recognised for people who came in the pact of duality,[ clarification needed ] which would not be considered as "marriage" but would be as similar as possible to the marriage institution.
The bill never reached further legislation procedures. In July Israel's Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and the chief rabbi of Israel Shlomo Amar reached an agreement on a limited bill for civil marriages in Israel, which would apply only to the marriage of Israelis who do not belong to any recognized religious community.