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Before the days of COVID-19, Israelis who wanted or needed to have a civil marriage used to book a quick flight to Cyprus, similar to the American tradition of taking a trip to Reno, or stepping across the border to Mexico.

However, Israelis have learned creative new ways to get around the government’s restrictions on matrimony. And some of Israel’s globetrotting citizens who find themselves grounded by the coronavirus have figured out a new hack — in Utah.

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Three Israeli couples recently “went” to the State of Utah via the Internet to get married under civil law without having to deal with Israel’s religious requirements.

When they “returned,” their marriage certificates were, as usual, accepted by Israel’s Population Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA) under the Interior Ministry according to the Kan News public broadcasting network, which reported the story Wednesday.

The information was confirmed in a statement by the PIBA which said, “Marriage certificates were presented from the State of Utah in the United States. The matter was examined with the relevant authorities and after confirmation was given that this was indeed a procedure recognized by the State of Utah, the marriage was approved for registration.”

One of the couples – two women – married on November 20. Once the PIBA accepted the certificate, the couple was able to formally register in the government as a married couple, which opened the way to access various Israeli government benefits offered to married couples. Their certificate was approved Sunday.

The other two couples got the news Tuesday that their certificates were also approved. All three couples now have equivalent status to married heterosexual couples in Israel.

However, on Wednesday, Interior Minister Arye Deri (leader of the strictly Orthodox Sephardic Shas party) ordered the process be stopped.

Deri’s office said in a statement on his behalf, “Recently, a number of applications for marriage registration were submitted without the issue being presented to the administrative and legal echelon of the Population and Immigration Authority.”

The statement added the registration process is to be halted until a review by senior PIBA officials and Deri himself, who will then decide the matter.

Up to this point, Israel has only recognized marriages conducted by clerics in the Jewish, Islamic and/or Christian faith. Civil marriage conducted abroad is also recognized by the state.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.