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    Civil marriage – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Do you believe that Israel should allow civil marriages between Jews?

    A. Part of the secular struggle against religion in Israel is the agitation for civil marriages. Though the State of Israel determined from the beginning that marriages between Jews had to follow traditional Jewish practice, this is too religious and constricting for some. The result is that marriages that can not be solemnised in Israel are occasionally taken off-shore to Cyprus. But this is not good enough for people like Shulamit Aloni, who in 1986 publicly claimed to have “married” hundreds of couples without chuppah, k’tubah or ring. Such “marriages” are valid neither by Jewish nor by Israeli law, but she claims that people have a right to choose the ceremony they want.

    In 1986, Rabbi Menachem Porush addressed the following words to Mrs Aloni in the course of a Knesset debate: “How far have you drifted from your glorious heritage! Has your Jewish heart turned to a cold unfeeling stone? Has your ‘war’ against the tenets of Israel forced you to forsake whatever is and has been for centuries our most cherished treasures? By what mandate have you denied hundreds of young couples the opportunity to build a house in Israel upon the foundations of peace and tranquillity, merely to further your own campaign against your very own heritage?”

    Rabbi Porush’s argument rightly centres upon the pride we ought to feel in our Jewish tradition. Even a secularist ought to appreciate that, like every nation, we have our own distinctive culture, and the chuppah, k’tubah and kiddushin are indispensable Jewish cultural if not religious usages. But there is more to it than this. If everyone does what is right in their own eyes, our people will be irreparably split, Jewish identity will be fractured, no-one’s Jewish lineage will be safe, and secularists’ children who seek to find their way to Torah will never be able to forgive their parents.

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