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Yesh Atid Looks to Legalize Non-Religious Marriage in Israel

The new proposed Tzohar bill would, for the first time in the country, legalize civil marriage, and offer equal rights to the LGBT community

By: Daniel Koren
Published: October 30th, 2013 in News » Israel
Wedding in Israel

A revolutionary new bill has been proposed in Israel by the Yesh Atid party, which, if passed, would legalize, for the first time in Israel's history, non-religious marriage in the country.

The Tzohar bill looks to legalize civil marriage, and would allow Israelis to choose the city in which they are getting married, and their rabbi, as opposed to the current laws that make it very difficult for secular Jews to marry the way they want to.

Today, all Israeli marriages are legal only if they are conducted in religious institutions, whether via the Jewish rabbinate, Catholic courts, Muslim sharia establishments, or other recognized methods.

The current law also prohibits thousands of non-Jewish immigrants who have made aliyah to Israel from getting married in the State; the only way for most of these citizens to get married is to leave the country.

The Tzohar bill, however, would offer a completely secular, and egalitarian, marriage that would grant couples in Israel the same legal protections of marriage as those who obtain them religiously, according to the Times of Israel.

If passed, it would be a groundbreaking and revolutionary movement to take place in Israel, further democratizing it as secular Israelis look to separate synagogue and state.

Yesh Atid MK's Ruth Calderon and Aliza Lavie drafted the bill. “We have no interest in challenging the religious establishment or other [political] parties,” Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said. “Our own religious MKs, who include two rabbis [Education Minister Shai Piron and MK Dov Lipman], were intimately involved in writing the bill. Our only goal is to give every Israeli citizen – Jewish or non-Jewish, gay or straight – the opportunity to have their country recognize their right to love.”

As Calderon put it, the bill would create “a civil agreement for a shared life between two people," and does not "overstep into the rabbinate's territory. Its goal is to enable any couple that can’t or doesn’t want to marry in the rabbinate to live meaningful lives without losing their civil rights."

She also confirmed that the bill is not “an attack on halachic marriage.”

Some members of parliament were not entirely pleased with the bill, particularly members of the Jewish Home party. "It's not right and it won't happen," said the group's Yoni Chetboun regarding a bill that allows both civil and homosexual marriage. “[We] went through exile and pain, and established a state, because it has always accepted its past, its heritage, and maintained its uniqueness as a people," yhe said. "Initiatives like these are an attempt to divide the Jewish people into two nations. It simply won’t happen!”

Calderon argues, on the other side, that the bill will create a "Jewish, sane, welcoming state."

The bill was signed by 13 MK's on Tuesday, all of which are members of Yesh Atid.

One such member, Yoel Razbozov, said the bill affected him personally, as he had to leave the country for his own civil marriage. “To serve in the army and represent Israel – that they let me do, but to marry – that the state kept from me,” he said. “In the end, I took my family to Cyprus, and purchased at great expense the basic right to ratify my love.”

“The Civil Marriage Bill we proposed today … will solve once and for all the problems encountered by those who want to ratify their relationship in this country without going through the rabbinate,” he added.

It sounds like a step in the right direction.

Related articles: Yesh Atid, Religious Marriage, LGBT, Jewish News, Israel News, Tzohar Bill
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