Getting married in Israel has become a cumbersome ordeal, says the non-profit organization ITIM in a comprehensive report published Wednesday on the rules governing marriage licensing in Israel. The report was published ahead of Tu B'Av, the Israeli version of Valentine's Day that begins Thursday night, at the height of the marriage season in Israel.
ITIM describes itself as an organization dedicated to "providing information and advocacy for the Jewish life cycle," including circumcision, bar mitzvah, marriage, divorce, burial and conversion.
The authors of the 2012 Marriage Report accuse the authorities of failing to properly follow guidelines and statutes, and specifically cite local rabbinates for their lack of transparency and fairness in handling marriage applications and their disrespect for couples. In Israel, the rabbinates are the only government agency that can issue a marriage license for Jewish citizens.
According to the report, the authorities occasionally fail to adhere to the rules and guidelines on marriage licensing procedures, and fall short of their proper enforcement. In some cases this amounts to severe breach of the proper procedure, ITIM claims. The report also says couples have to go through too many hoops and deal with a whole slew of technical aspects. Also, some rabbis are accused of acting on the basis of their own interpretation of policy and Jewish law in determining the Jewish roots of couples. In some rabbinates, the marriage registrars refuse to recognize the authority of rabbinical courts or that of other agencies that deal with religious affairs in Israel, says the report.
The report sheds light on specific cases in which couples were denied a marriage license because the men had not been circumcised. ITIM claims conditioning marriage on fulfilling that demand is against the law.
"The report's purpose is to publicly depict an up-to-date picture of the marriage licensing procedure in Israel, and shed light on the existing shortcomings and challenges that couples run into," says Rabbi Seth Farber, ITIM's founder and director. Among the issues scrutinized by Farber's organization in this report were "unmerited delays in opening marriage requests and the various obstacles thousands face when they want to prove they are Jewish," Farber said Wednesday.
Farber says those who feel that rabbinical marriage registrars in their locality disrespect couples or fail to comply with the law should act. "If you would like to see our children go through a sensible and sane marriage licensing procedure that has joy in it and conforms to Jewish rituals, you should wake up [and] tell the rabbinical councils that the way they treat the residents of their community cannot continue the way things are, like a comedy of errors."