September 13, 2005
Two Jews, Three Opinions: Marriage Law in Israel
Sometimes with all the infighting between Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the Middle East, not to mention among various flavors of Muslims and/or Christians, many people forget that the Jews aren't exactly one big, happy family. In fact, the Israeli Jewish community can be one big, unhappy, dysfunctional family in one very basic regard...the legal right to get married in a ceremony that reflects one's chosen level of religious observance, not to mention one's beliefs regarding gender equality: Unorthodox Weddings Dividing Israelis
Although Israel isn't a theocracy in the traditional sense of all facets of government being controlled by a state religion, even the Reform and secular Jewish communities, although by far in the numerical majority among Israeli Jews, are forced to conform to Orthodox religious law in matters of family status - and interfaith marriage does not exist under current Israeli law. This leads to such farces as my former officemate, an East Bloc immigrant to Israel and a rather secular Jew, being told by her synagogue that she had to schedule her wedding according to the most fertile night of her menstrual cycle, all the better to obey the Biblical command to be fruitful and multiply (in true East Bloc fashion, she left, went to another synagogue, and lied - after all, she'd already paid the deposit for the reception).
In what other alleged democracy do more than 25% of the majority religious group feel the need to leave the country in order to complete a primary life cycle event? And how many modern Israelis are likely to be virgins on their wedding night?
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(Of course light heartedly one might also ask how else would Cyprus fill its hotels off season...)
Posted by: lounsbury at September 14, 2005 05:33 AM
Well, I suppose it beats having to leave the country for funerals (especially Jewish ones - Orthodox law is that they are supposed to take place on the day of death, which could pose some additional logistical obstacles). At least one gets to plan ahead.
Posted by: Eva Luna at September 14, 2005 05:54 AM
I see Israel having two major problems in the mid/long term. I'm pretty sure of what your normative view on these matters are but I'd like to know how the Israelis, Jews and forms of Judaism you're familiar with would be likelyto respond to those issues.
First is whether or not Israel should be more Jewish than democratic or vice versa (something which should become more pressing as times passes because of demographics).
The second one is what does being a Jewish state imply? If it means a religious state, how far should it go in making religious law its law (at least for those who are at least nominally Jewish)? Does Jewish Israelis tend to secularise over generations? If the Orthodox and ultra-orthorox get their own schools, subsidies etc and that they socialise their children within orthodoxy, considering their very high birthrates, they could form a sizable bloc of Israeli society. Perhaps this would allow Israel to retain a Jewish majority but I don't think it would be likely to stay liberal much.
So, your thoughts, if any?
Posted by: Baal Shem Ra at September 14, 2005 07:38 PM
Too zonked at the moment, and too unfamiliar with Israeli domestic politics, to put together any coherent thoughts, but there's one variable left out of your demographic equation above: immigration. Israel has taken in huge numbers of FSU immigrants over the past, oh, 15 - 20 years; the vast majority of these are secular, and in fact quite a number were raised without any Jewish education at all and/or are intermarried with non-Jews. I'd have to research their demographics, voting patterns, etc.
Personally, as a product of my upbringing as a member of a historically persecuted religious minority which has been known to turn around and persecute people, not to mention one with strong hippy inclinations, I'm not a fan of theocracies. Someone will always get the short end of the stick. Theocracies don't tend to be so good with the whole live-and-let-live thing. And the subsectors of Judaism with which I'm most familiar happen to be a) the ones who think like I do (they did raise me, after all), and b) the former East Bloc immigrants, though mostly the more opportunistic ones who held out for a refugee visa to the U.S. when they mostly could have gotten to Israel much more quickly. (The ones who went to Israel right away were probably more likely to have been the ones with some genuine degree of religious belief.)
Posted by: Eva Luna at September 14, 2005 11:56 PM
Yeah, immigration. That FSU immigration seems to have been a one shot deal though.
I just checked the CIA world factbook and I was a bit surprised to find that Israel has 0% migration rate. As man people emigrating as are immigrating. I knew it was low but didn't expect that. Japan has the same migration rate.
I think it was a year to two ago that I heard immigration to Israel had been at 30K-35K people, which, even for a country of 6 million people, isn't much. It would give Israel (presuming the 30K is net migration, that Israel has 6M people), a positive migration rate of 0.5 per 1000. A bit below France.
So, I did think if immigration but I don't see it solving much, especially if the Pals keep welcoming migrants and tourists with their very own type of fireworks.
Posted by: Baal Shem Ra at September 15, 2005 08:59 AM
Of course light heartedly one might also ask how else would Cyprus fill its hotels off season...
That's easy- with guests from Lebanese marriages.
As I'm sure you, for one, already know, Lebanon does not allow civil marriages but recognizes marriages taking place abroad. Consequently, when people there with different beliefs choose to get married, they usually end up in Cyprus.
Posted by: Dubaiwalla at September 18, 2005 07:49 AM
", when people there with different beliefs choose to get married"
How often does that happen?
For that matter, how often does it happen in Israel*?
*By which I don't mean a Hiloni (much like Reform) marrying a Dati (much like Orthodox).
Posted by: Baal Shem Ra at September 18, 2005 03:03 PM
Oddly although I did know that at some level it utterly did not occur to me when posting.
Still the number of Lebanese doing that is trivial relative to the number of Israelis as far as I can tell (at least judging by the Zio Slut to Leb Slut rations I detected while... ah, well, researching, yes, researching beaches in Cyprus for business.).
Posted by: lounsbury at September 19, 2005 10:33 AM
@ lounsbury...'Your business is my business' :D
Heard it somewhere but my memory fails me. Anyways, are these beaches on the Greek side or the Turkish side?
Eva, to what extent do you carry on the "Love for all, Hatred for none" vibe? Also, would you please comment on the state of Israeli Arabs.
Posted by: AEDisillusioned at September 20, 2005 03:42 AM
I believe in ""love for all, hatred for none" to the extent that individuals, not groups, refrain from proving themselves worthy of hatred. I'd hate to have anyone hold me respoonsible for all the sins committed by the groups of which I am a member, for that matter.
Israeli Arabs? I have no special insights, having never known one (or been to Israel, for that matter). What are you wondering about in particular?
Posted by: Eva Luna at September 20, 2005 08:17 AM