Marriage in Israel

Suppose you live in Israel, and you and your partner are engaged. You’d probably be overwhelmed by the amount of choices you have to make – who would be invited? Where would the wedding be? What food? What drinks? What music? What clothes/rings/makeup? But above all, the most important decision you’d have to make, from my perspective, is what type of ceremony you’ll have. For me, both of us are Jewish, but we don’t live religious lives so in an ideal world we would have a civil marriage arranged by the state. The problem is – in Israel, there is no civil marriage.

In Israel there is only religious marriage. The authority to perform wedding ceremonies for Jewish people is the Rabbinate. The religious authorities for Christian, Muslin and Druze people perform ceremonies in their communities.

The Rabbinate is the Jewish supreme religious authority of Israel, it has jurisdiction over marriage, divorce, burials, conversions to Judaism and other aspects of Jewish life. Made from Orthodox rabbis. To get married you’ll need to provide proof that you’re Jewish and that you’re single. After completing that, the bride (usually) sees a bridal instructor to learn about the Jewish rules and laws regarding family and intimacy. The traditional Jewish ceremony doesn’t treat the bride and groom as equals and has customs that were once practical but now seem irrelevant and outdated.

Because the law permits only religious marriage, some people can’t get married: couples from different religions, couples from religions that aren’t recognized by the state, same sex couples, Jewish people who can’t provide proof for their Judaism or aren’t considered Jewish by the authority (4% of the population have no religious classification, around 300,000 people), couples who don’t want a religious ceremony. What options do these couples have?

  • They can get married abroad and be recognized by Israel as a married couple. Although, if they wanted to separate they’d still need to have their divorce done by the Rabbinate.
  • Common-law marriage – a legal status for people who don’t want or can’t get married. In Israel, couples of this status have almost the same rights and obligations as married couples, except in cases of adoption, alimony and visa abroad. In their I.D, they would remain “single” as opposed to married couples, which causes bureaucracy issues when trying to get the same rights as married couples in income taxes, financial compensations in cases of an accident and so on.

Many couples who decide to have a Common-law marriage or get married abroad still choose to perform a ceremony in Israel for friends and family that suits their own values, alternatively to the ceremony performed by Rabbis from the Rabbinate. There are different organizations in Israel which perform wedding ceremonies outside the Rabbinate, a few examples are the reform or conservative Judaism movement, “Havaya” for secular ceremonies in view of the couple’s values, performed by close people, public figures and sometimes celebrities, “Chupot” for Jewish Orthodox ceremonies, and many more.

Couples who decided to get married in an Orthodox Jewish ceremony and the Rabbis who performed the ceremony could be sentenced for two years in prison. Recently, a rabbi from the north was arrested for marrying a couple outside the Rabbinate, even though he’s from the Conservative community. The charges were made by the local religious authority claiming that the couple wasn’t allowed to be married by Jewish law. The charges were dropped due to public pressure.

In conclusion, Israel is a fascinating country that is declared both Jewish and Democratic. Unfortunately, these two values often contradict one another. As stated in the declaration of the establishment of the state of Israel from 1948:

“The State of Israel… will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; …“

In my view, there’s still a long way to go.

Travelling Solo As a Woman

A few years ago I decided I wanted to travel for a few months. I was old enough, I had some time before starting University so I started working in retail to save up for the big trip. At the time I was dating a guy and we agreed to go on the trip together, but after a year of going out we broke up. I knew I would go on the trip anyways, it was just a matter of finding a travel partner. None of my friends were available\willing so I started searching for people in my wider circles. Meanwhile, I started thinking about a travel destination, having in mind Asia or South America. I talked to a few women who travelled alone in India and my mind was set – I was going to India, by myself. I met another girl through an Israeli travelling forum, we bought a ticket and all was decided. Four and half years later, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

It wasn’t an easy decision. My friends and family weren’t on board, to put it mildly. I was scared but encouraged by the women I knew who travelled alone and something inside me was eager to do it. I was feeling a lot of pressure and wanted to take a distance from my everyday life.

564504_10151795652054362_1345442410_n
Glorious India. Some of the best scenery I’ve seen.

1000591_10151795642024362_745884764_n1098371_10151795653889362_2058951211_n

945984_10151795651009362_1095242758_n
Me and Future Buddha.

Looking back, that trip changed my life. I learned a lot about myself, I fell in love, I got broken-hearted, I gained the confidence and courage to encounter the world. To encounter people. To live a little more freely then before.
I tackled my fears and learned that I was fine being alone and relying on myself, I even did a good job. I was stronger than I thought, than my surrounding made me think, and learned to believe in myself and do whatever I want whether the people around me accept it or not. I learned that people who are afraid project their fears on others, they shouldn’t keep you from doing what you want. I became more comfortable in my own skin.

A lot of people were worried that India is not a safe place for a woman to travel alone, but I believe that by taking some precautions you can almost eliminate the risk. Of course bad things can happen which are not up to you but they can happen while travelling in a “safe” place too. I was told that in order to travel safely in India, I had to travel with a man. That’s very restricting and problematic, because unless I’m travelling with a man who’s close to me, why would a strange man protect me? and why should I trust in someone to protect me other than myself? Most of the time I travelled with company, men or women, but there were times where I was completely alone and I was aware of my surrounding and took care of my belongings. Never travelled at night and was never alone with a stranger. I feel like people are more encouraging when a man travels alone than a woman, while I can understand their fear, at the same time it’s very restricting and from my experience ill-founded.

After two months in India my confidence grew and I crossed the border to Nepal, completely alone, a two day travel by bus (which is a story for another time). I met wonderful people, walked the Around Annapurna which was my first trek, and had the best time.

1391675_10151898665654362_1997854603_n
Beautiful scenery from Around Annapurna trek.

1394151_10151898756944362_538393740_n1380645_10151900563559362_406639172_n1394447_10151900579409362_2123484838_n.jpg

By writing this post I hope to encourage women who want to travel to go on and do it, whether alone or with a partner/friends. I loved India and Nepal and I will certainly come back someday.