Young Israelis demand marriage reforms

JERUSALEM, (Xinhua) -- The issue of marriages seems quiet complex in Israel.
   In a report issued by Hiddush, a non-governmental organization, which advocates religious freedom in Israel, it was discovered that the country is at the bottom of nearly 200 countries in the world as far as freedom to marry is concerned.

   The orthodox religious establishment in the country has monopoly over the registration and performing of marriages and it is made in accordance with the halacha, the Jewish ancient law book.
   Contending that Israel is a Jewish state, about 300,000 people whose Judaism is questioned (or that of their partners), cannot marry in the country.
   Add to that many secular Israelis who are not interested in having a religious wedding and members of other factions in Judaism, like the reform faction.
   The report stated that Israel has "severe restrictions" relating to the restrictions piled up by the Orthodox rabbinic establishment on those who wish to marry.
   "Only recognized religious marriage ceremonies are allowed in Israel," the report stated.
   "For Jews, only weddings that are held up to Orthodox standards are accepted, without any option of civil marriage or interfaith marriage," it further said.
   Mickey Gitzin, chairman of the "Free Israel" civil movement advocating equal society, organized a protest in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv recently, in which hundreds of protesters broke glasses, calling for civil marriage in the country.
   "For the past 65 years, there's only one faction dominating how Israelis should live their lives," Gitzin told Xinhua.
Israelis marked, on April 28, the holiday of Lag Baomer, which commemorates the victory of an ancient Jewish war lord against the Roman Empire, and also traditionally kicks off the weddings season in Israel.
   "This holiday, known as the 'weddings holiday', is a great opportunity to call out for more place for different factions and ways of life in the Israeli society," he added.
   Natasha Gertz, 27, is not able to marry her boyfriend Danni since the chief rabbinate had questioned her Judaism.
   Gertz is one of the nearly one million and a half people who immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union. Many of those immigrants have their Judaism questioned as they were born to interfaith marriages.
   "My boyfriend and I have decided it's time to get married, that it's something we both want," she told Xinhua.
   "(But) they started asking me questions about my mother, my grandmother. My mother was converted into Judaism after she met my dad. But that didn't matter to anyone, and because of that they won't let me marry," she explained.
   "To begin with I didn't want to get married in the rabbinate, but I know my boyfriend's family wants us to be officially wedded. This has been a very hard ordeal, dealing with the rabbis who judge you over what your mother and grandmother did," she said.
   When asked what she's planning to do, she said "we're probably going to get married in Cyprus... It's too bad that it's like this. I hope we can do something to change it already," she added.
   Ariel Matar, 31, also came to the protest hoping to make a difference.
   "I think that a lot of Israelis are concerned with the rabbinate's monopoly over our personal life," he said.
   "I'm a secular person... It's outrageous to me that in order to have a secular wedding I have to go abroad," he said.