Sharp rise in Israelis blacklisted from marriage


The number of Israelis banned from marrying by the rabbinical courts has leapt in recent years according to local campaigners.

These traditional raddinical courts govern marriage and divorce in Israel, even amongst non-religious residents. Despite popular support, civil marriage remains unavailable in the Middle East’s most Westernised country.

Amongst their powers are compiling lists of Israelis who they believe are not genuinely Jewish. An appearance on the list means such individuals will be unable to legally marry Jewish Israelis. By forbidding such unions the courts believe they are helping to preserve the ‘coherence’ of the Jewish people, reports.

Meanwhile, a separate list is maintained for Israelis of uncertain Jewish status.

Now new figures released by Israeli charity ITIM show that 454 Israelis were added to the marriage blacklist last year, an increase of more than 300 in just four years. A total of 3,988 people have been listed since 1944 but ITIM say a huge 22 per cent of these have been added since 2015.

The figures were obtained from the rabbinical courts by ITIM via a Freedom of Information request. Many are recent immigrants claim ITIM: the great majority from the former Soviet Union. Meanwhile the courts also vet the family backgrounds of thousands of marriage applicants per year.

Rabbi Seth Farmer is Director of ITIM. He claimed:

“The rabbinical courts have now made everybody is fair game to have their Jewishness challenged. Once you open that door, you’re exponentially expanding your pool and your numbers are going to go up.”

ITIM has been at odds with the rabbinical courts over this issue, claiming they do not really have the legal authority to assess the Jewish status of Israelis without their consent. But the courts have now received an official mandate to do so.

Rabbi Farmer said the practice was not in the country’s best interests.

“Instead of putting the onus on people to have to prove they’re Jewish, we should be embracing Jews from all around the world. The best way to protect Jewish identity is not to circle the wagons but to take down the walls and embrace people.”

Photo of Tel Aviv by Deror_avi via Wikipedia

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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