A bill permitting civil marriage in Israel, which the government of Ehud Olmert had promised to propose, is finally ready for submission to the Knesset. But its chief advocates are opposed, saying it is too narrowly drawn.
The bill would permit civil marriage between two Israeli citizens provided both are defined as non-Jews according to Orthodox Jewish law. "This is not a bill that creates civil marriage so that a Conservative rabbi could perform a marriage and have it recognized by the state," said Rabbi Joel Meyers, executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly. "Our movement has been in favor of a civil marriage bill as a civil right in Israel," he said. "It is not in favor of this bill."
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, associate director of the Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center, said the bill would only help the approximately 70 Israeli couples without religious classification who go abroad every year to get married. Meanwhile, he said, thousands of others are forced to go to Cyprus to get married.
"When the bill is presented," Kariv said, "the Reform and Conservative movements will argue that this is a false solution that is not going to bring any real benefit to Israeli society."
Rabbi Meyers added that should the bill become law, his movement would work to have the law amended, which he said is much more difficult than having it written properly from the start.