Israel must recognize civil marriage - opinion

Published date23 October 2021
Publication titleJerusalem Post, The: Web Edition Articles (Israel)
We share an apartment in Ramat Gan, where I spend much of my time writing while he provides background music through his work as a pianist. Generally speaking, we're very happy, and a year ago we decided to get married. This decision brought with it a particular predicament, one that thousands of Israeli couples have had to face for decades.

The most recent and famous case is that of Artem Dolgopyat, the Olympic gymnast who recently won Israel its second-ever gold medal, and his fiancee, Maria Sakovichas.

I love Israel, I consider myself a Zionist, and I've never once regretted my choice to move here. I'm proud of my Jewish heritage. Unfortunately, pride is not enough. Like Dolgopyat, my mother is not Jewish, and so the rabbinate does not recognize me as a Jew, and will not marry me and my partner. Israel has no alternative course for marriage for people like us.

When I told my parents that we wanted to get married, my father, in particular, was especially excited. He was more than just happy for me – he was beaming.

"I can just picture your grandparents in heaven," he said. "You, going to live in the Jewish homeland, and marry someone Jewish. They'd be over the moon."

I'm the 11th of their 12 grandchildren, and among us only the second to marry a Jew. Many of the others married Catholics. Some are strictly secular. My dad's imagery filled me with pride. I'd be a continuing link in an otherwise disappearing chain. It was a way to remain connected to the grandparents I'd never really known.

We decided to get married in Maine, where both of my parents are from, and where much of my extended family still resides. When we shared this news with my friends and relatives, they were thrilled – this would make it much easier for them to be able to attend and share in our joy.

Many were also a bit surprised. Why would we leave the lives we'd created in Israel to get married abroad? What about his family? I wanted to get married in a place where my loved ones could easily be present, that was true, but there was also the logistical factor of having no choice. The reactions I received upon explaining that even as a citizen I'm not legally able to get married here ranged from curiosity to downright disgust. How could I be a citizen of a particular country and still not have this right?

One of the main arguments for the existence of Israel is that Jews need a homeland, a place of guaranteed safety in relation to our Judaism. This is why we have the Law of Return, which...

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