Lod District Court Judge Efrat Fink last Friday ruled that couples who have married in a civil ceremony overseas on Zoom will be recognized by the interior ministry and entered into the Population Registry, Reshet Bet radio reported Sunday morning.
During the Corona pandemic, the state of Utah allowed marriage registration through the Zoom application, and hundreds of Israeli couples jumped at the opportunity, stepped up in front of the Utah judges, paid several hundred dollars, and signed up to be married. These were same-sex couples, Jews who are ineligible for halakhic marriage, and individuals who are not interested in being married by a rabbi. One of them was Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll (Yesh Atid) and his partner, singer Harel Skaat (a.k.a. Harel).
Judge Fink wrote in her decision that the State of Utah’s certificate was credible, and that population officials lack the authority to decide the legitimacy of the location of the ceremony. Also, following the principle of equality before the law, Fink cited the fact that the state had already accepted several “Utah marriages.”
The new ruling offers substantial savings to Israeli Jewish couples who are banned by the Chief Rabbinate, such as a Jew and a gentile, a Cohen and a divorcée, a mamzer, and same-sex partners, all of whom in the past sought legitimate marriages abroad (the nearest and cheapest was the Island of Cyprus) which the state then confirmed. The Zoom option allows these individuals to save airline tickets and maybe buy themselves something nice.
In December 2020, after it became known that the Population Registry had approved three “Utah marriages,” then-Interior Minister Aryeh Deri banned the practice and ordered all similar applications to be rejected. One of the couples who had been approved was informed that the validity of their marriage is once again, “pending.”
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, there were 842 marriages in Cyprus where both members were Israeli Jews, as well as 180 marriages where only one of them was Jewish. In 2018, the numbers were 744 and 155 respectively. In 2017, 762 and 161. Do you think these numbers are too high? Should the state of Israel find a better solution for almost 1,000 people each year who are rejected by rabbinical law? Your call.
A video that was produced by Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah and included interviews with some leading national-religious rabbis (the equivalent of modern Orthodox), was quite schizophrenic. Rabbi David Stav, for instance, says, “A normal state should allow all its citizens to get married here, and a normal state cannot block 20% of the public from getting married.” However, Rabbi Stav also believes that “a civil marriage in its current format is a disaster for the nation of Israel.”
Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah President Rabbi Dr. Ronen Lowitz, the community rabbi of Nir Etzion, says, “I believe that at some point the State of Israel will reach the point where every citizen will have the opportunity to marry in a civil marriage.”
Rabbinic advocate Rivka Lowicz says merging the rabbinic and secular marriage systems “is the worst combination there is because even if there is a possibility in Halakha to find solutions, the perception of there being a secular system prevents Halakha from evolving.”
Rabbi Dr. Michael Avraham, from the Higher Torah Institute at Bar-Ilan University, believes that a state should allow every person to live as they understand, “despite the fact that as a religious person I would not want it to happen.”