Interfaith marriage & laws in Israel
By: Jona Taylor
My common law husband David and I had the crazy idea we would get married in Israel. We forgot the fact that Israeli marriage laws are different than in the United States. In America practically anybody can get married to whoever they want if they are of age. Most states still don’t allow gay marriage, and no state that I know of would let you marry your dog or cat; However, Interracial and interfaith marriages are allowed in all states, even Alabama.
David and I can’t get married in Israel because civil marriage is not allowed. Basically, only Orthodox religious marriages are permitted. Christians may marry other Christians, Muslims may only marry Muslims, and Jews may only marry Jews. Oh, but there’s more, certain ultra-orthodox Jewish sects allow marriage not only between cousins, but even nieces. To top it off, a Jewish convert can only marry another Jewish convert.
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- Hebrew-English legal terminology
Not to worry, love conquers all. Israel will accept marriages that were performed in other countries. Therefore, although David and I can’t get married in Israel, if we married before coming here, or take a trip abroad to elope, the marriage would be accepted. I was told by my gay friend that Israel accepts his marriage which was performed in a country that allows gay marriage.
So the majority of Israelis go abroad to get married. How ironic is that? A lot of this comes from the old Ottoman Empire, and many of the surrounding countries — aka enemies calling for the complete and total destruction of Israel — have similar laws and customs.
Cyprus is the country of choice where most Israelis travel to marry. In fact, there is the Cyprus wedding cruise ship that leaves port about once a week during wedding season and once a month during the slow season. I’ve never been to Cyprus, so I can’t tell you what it’s like, but obviously they allow civil marriages and are profiting from the archaic Israeli marriage laws. There are couples in the US that refuse to marry until gays can marry. As a matter of principle, David and I should not get married until Israelis born in their own native land are allowed to marry their person of choice in a civil ceremony.
Jona Taylor is a freelance writer living in Haifa, Israel. Read her blog