Freedom from Religion in Israel: Civil Marriages and Cohabitation of Jews Enter the Rabbinical Courts
Israel Studies Review, 2013
17 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2012 Last revised: 22 Oct 2012
Date Written: July 9, 2012
The only form of marriage that is recognized under Israeli law is religious marriage. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark 1963 Funk Schlesinger case, Israeli authorities must register couples who marry abroad as married. Many couples who wish to avoid the religious monopoly on marriage and divorce choose this route. However, they are mistaken in thinking that they achieve freedom from religion by doing so.
In a 2006 landmark decision the Supreme Court held that the rabbinical court system has jurisdiction over the divorce of couples who marry civilly abroad. While they do not need to undergo a full get [religious divorce] procedure, the decision held that the rabbinical court has exclusive jurisdiction over the dissolution of civil marriages of Jews residing in Israel. The Court’s decision was based on halachic principles, and was pre-approved by a panel of the rabbinical court. However, rabbinical courts have nevertheless been insisting on performing a full get procedure even for civilly-married couples. This article analyzes this phenomenon, and speculates as to the reasons for and the direction of these developments.
Keywords: family law, cohabitation, marriage, women, gender, feminism, Jewish law, Israel, Rabbinical Court, Supreme Court, divorce, Jewish divorce, religion, multiculturalism
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