Israel, along with many other countries, is a signatory to the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 23 of the
Covenant declares that men and women have the right to marry and to found a
family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage, and
at its dissolution. However, Israel appears to have ignored its obligations
under the Covenant.
Currently, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel is the religious authority that
regulates all Jewish marriages. There are similar authorities that regulate
marriages of Christian, Muslim Druze couples or couples of nine other religious communities.
However, there are no provisions for:
Non-religious, civil marriage ceremonies in the country.
Jewish couples who are not from the Orthodox tradition.
Religious ceremonies by couples who are not a member of one of the other 14 recognized religious communities.
Together, the couples who are unable to marry in Israel form the majority!
Most leave the country, get married in a foreign land -- Cyprus is the most
return to Israel, and have their marriage registered. Alternately, they can get
married by mail in Paraguay.
Since 1953, only Orthodox
Jewish marriages performed in Israel and civil marriages performed outside of Israel can be legally
recognized. And, of course, the
state did not recognize same-sex marriages, no matter where performed 1
According to author Suraya Dadoo:
"The rules on marriage are enforced by Israel's
small, but influential, Orthodox community. Drawing on Old Testament
statutes, these rabbis argue that God recognizes only Jewish marriages
conducted according to Orthodox tradition. With secular and liberal Jews now
constituting the majority of the Israeli population, the situation has
become increasingly problematic, as many reject Orthodox traditions, often
because they believe it discriminates against women."
"According to halakhic law (Jewish law), a
marriage can conventionally be terminated in two ways: the death of a
spouse, or the issuing of a "get" (divorce). A husband can, in principle,
refuse to give a get indefinitely, and the woman cannot remarry or have
children. In addition, childless widows must obtain a ritual release
from their deceased husband's brother (levirate marriage) in order to
re-marry. According to [the Israel Religious Action Center] IRAC, those
wanting a non-Orthodox religious ceremony simply have no choice in
Status of SSM by late 2004:
The Government had criticized a
financial agreement between a gay couple to share responsibility in
raising the child who one of the men had fathered. But on 2004-DEC-08, Attorney
General Menachem Mazuz issued a statement saying that he was taking:
different approach regarding recognition of same-sex couples
compared to his predecessor, Eliyakim Rubinstein. [Mazuz wrote:] The
attorney general's basic approach is that with regard to recognizing
partnerships between members of the same sex, one must distinguish
between financial and other practical arrangements, in which the
tendency should be practical and flexible, in the spirit of the times
and of changing circumstances; and issues involving the creation of a
new statutory status requiring a more cautions approach which, in
general, should be left to parliament to decide."
Early in 2004, a conflict surfaced over payment of a house purchase tax.
Israeli law requires payment whenever a home ownership is transferred
from one person to another. But the tax is waived if the ownership is
transferred from one married or common-law partner to the other. A
same-sex couple, Adir Steiner and Tzach Granit, lost a lawsuit when they
went to court to protest their payment of the tax. They appealed, and
the state declined to contest their lawsuit -- probably out of fear that it
would generate a precedent and allow other same-sex couples freedom from the tax.
In still another case, one partner of a same-sex couple who had been
together for nearly 40 years died. A Nazareth District Court decided
that the surviving member could inherit the estate of their partner as
long as it had not been willed to someone else.
In Jerusalem, both former Mayor Ehud Olmert and current Mayor Uri
Lupolianski have attempted to prevent gay-positive events from being
scheduled in their city. Jerusalem Open House, a homosexual
advocacy center, attempted to sponsoring a worldwide GayPride event in Jerusalem
during 2005-Summer. It was called WorldPride 2005. Lupolianski was
opposed to the event. He allegedly fears that conservative social and
religious groups would consider the event as a provocation and organize
massive protests. 4 In an
unprecedented show of unity by Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant
Christians, joined with Jewish and Muslim groups to oppose the event. These groups have traditionally been on opposite sides of
conflicts. However, their mutual hatred of homosexuality overcame their mutual
hostility and enabled them to cooperate The event was not held. A similar
event in 2006 was also cancelled for the same reason.
2006-NOV-21: Israeli court recognizes same-sex marriages performed outside the country:
Four Israeli same-sex couples were married in Toronto, ON, Canada in
2005-MAR. They were followed for several days by Out TV, a Canadian
gay-positive cable network. Their show, "I Now Pronounce You ...," which focuses
on same-sex weddings in North America, was hosted by Canadian comedian Trevor
Boris and was broadcast in 2005-AUG. 5
The couples then returned to Israel. They and one other same-sex couple who had married
in Toronto in 2003 sought help from the Association for
Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). They wantedto obtain rights for themselves
that are automatically granted to married opposite-sex couples. The Association
initially petitioned the Israeli Population Registrar to have the
marriages registered. The Registrar rejected the requests, stating that "marriages
of this kind are not considered legally valid by the State of Israel and thus
cannot be recorded into the registry as requested." The Association then
appealed to the High Court of Justice -- Israel's Supreme Court -- stating that the Registrar's
"... a humiliating message that a a relationship comprised of two men or
two women is not considered to be normative, and is also considered to be of
such a low status as to render it unsuitable for the rules that apply to
heterosexual couples." 6
Israel's chief justice, Aharon Barak, appointed an expanded panel to hear the
The High Court voted overwhelmingly in favor of
requiring the state to give same-sex couples the same status as opposite-sex
Israeli couples who marry outside the country. This includes tax benefits and
the right to be considered in child adoption cases.
According to LifeSiteNews.com, a Roman Catholic group:
"In a decision sure to cause unrest in the Holy Land, the Israeli High
Court of Justice ruled today that homosexual 'marriages' 7 obtained in Canada
must be registered by Israeli authorities. The justices ruled 6-1 in the
precedent-setting case launched by homosexual activist couples 8 who 'married'
7 in Toronto, Canada."
"Yitzhak Cohen the Shas Minister of Religious Affairs commented to
Haaretz news service saying:
"... the High Court has sunken in the gates of defilement and has torn
out the last mezuzah 9 from its doors. Marriage can only be held by the
faith of Moses and Yisrael [the traditional Jewish marriage vows]. The
dam that protected the Jewish state has been burst open under the
auspices of the High Court, asking for an anti-Jewish deluge clad in
black capes'." 10
2006-NOV-21: An Orthodox rabbi's response to the court
According to LifeSiteNews.com:
"... LifeSiteNews.com spoke with Rabbi Yehuda Levin, the Special Emissary
to Israel for The Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada
and The Rabbinical Alliance of America, about the Israeli' High Court of
Justice's ruling today that homosexual couples married abroad will be
registered as married couples in Israel. ..."
"The internationally respected Rabbi warned, 'This is a direct threat to
people around the world and especially the Americas.' He explained,
'Certain elements of the Muslim international community have been waiting to
be able to point fingers at the relationship between Israel and America to
be able to state that America has exported the worst part of Western culture
to Israel as a portal to this section of the world - the Middle East'."
" 'Consequently, I am fearful,' he continued, 'that at some point they
will be able to defend their use of terrorism against American citizens
throughout the world by saying that the ugly American has now exported their
ugliness into the Middle East'. ..."
"Rabbi Levin stressed the severity of the situation saying: 'There is
something worse than taking an innocent person and exterminating them in
this world, and that is when you take a person and exterminate him in this
world and in the next world. You do that by bringing him into licentious
sin. That way you are killing him, as our Rabbis taught in the Talmud over
two millennia ago, you kill the person in this world and in the next world
by bringing him into licentious sin whether its adultery, or other
perversion or homosexuality, sexual sin. That is worse than killing'. ..."
"Rabbi Levin told LifeSiteNews.com that he has been working with
Christians and even Muslims on the issue in Israel. 'Because of the threat
of worldwide homosexualization of the world," he said, "it is imperative
that forces of faith across religious boundaries, that devout Catholics,
Evangelicals, Jews and even Muslims, work together in as broad a coalition
as possible to protect God's standards'."
"Rabbi Levin explained that the threat was coming not only from
homosexual activists but from 'homosexualists, meaning people who are not
necessarily homosexual but are pushing the agenda, because somehow it gives
them a kosher stamp of approval to be involved in heterosexual misbehavior'."
" 'If people of faith are serious enough then there's a hope to stem the
tide of immorality,' Rabbi Levin told LifeSiteNews.com. 'But if we turn the
other cheek to this evil, then we will all suffer worldwide. Because as the
holy land goes, so by extension, will other areas of the world go. It will
incur God's wrath'."
" 'Fight with every fiber of your being the spiritual holocaust,' he
said, 'which is robbing the values of the Jewish people in Israel and of the
Christian people worldwide'."
"He concluded: 'The most effective way of showing an opposition to the
historic holocaust is to stop the holocaust of the spirit which is being
perpetrated by the militant homosexual agenda'." 11
2006-NOV-22: Negative reactions by politicians:
A number of members of the Knesset (MK) from two conservative religious
parties commented negatively on the decision in favor of marriage equality:
According to LifeSiteNews.com:
"MK Meir Porush with the United Torah Judaism called for the
protest resignation of Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, the only High Court Judge
to oppose the ruling. ..."
"MK Moshe Gafni, with the United Torah Judaism, said he will
propose a private bill if it's possible to render the decision moot by
legislature. "Barak is leaving us a farewell gift tantamount to a
destruction of the family unit," Gafni said. "Any sane person is shocked by
the ruling. Even Sodom and Gomorrah had court houses."
MK Rabbi Yitzchak Levy, with the National Union-National Religious
Party, said, "The ruling has led the wide public in Israel to express
its distrust with the High Court of Justice and what it represents."
MK Zevulun Orlev of the National Union-NRP said the ruling
undermined the Jewish identity of the State of Israel and of generations of
Jewish culture. "For those wanting the State of Israel as a Jewish state,
today is a day of mourning." 13
2006-NOV-28: The future of same-sex marriage in Israel:
"Analysts believe the [High Court of Justice,] ...often a
trailblazer on liberal issues, will side with the petitioners. But Avraham
Ravitz, a rabbi and member of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's coalition, said
Parliament would block gay-marriage advances through legislation. 'We have a
coalition agreement that says when the court makes decisions against
religious principles, Parliament will correct them,' he says." 12
2007-JAN-30: First same-sex
marriage registered in Israel:
Avi and Binyamin Rose were married on 2006-JUN-28 in Toronto, Canada. The
civil ceremony was preceded by a religious ceremony which was facilitated by
Avi's father, an American rabbi. The couple immediately returned to Jerusalem.
Avi, an informal Jewish educator for the Young Judaea youth movement, said:
"We did the civil ceremony in the hopes that we would eventually be able
to make legal what we felt inside. We wanted the government of Israel to
recognize that we are a couple. It was no more of a statement than [coming
from] a 'regular' couple, but we are both committed Zionists and are hopeful
that our union will bring more progress on this issue. ... It was wonderful
to get married at the city hall in Toronto, but it was far more important
for the State of Israel to recognize us as a couple. ... The protests last
year over the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem really spooked us, and many of
our friends here chose to leave the city. But we are very committed to
building our lives in Jerusalem and the Interior Ministry provided us with a
very positive experience today."
Binyamin, a social worker and therapist who is currently studying at a
Conservative yeshiva in Jerusalem, said the registration process at the Interior
Ministry went smoothly:
"Once we had all the right documentation, the process was pretty
positive. The clerks at the office were a little confused by our application
but they made the necessary changes to the forms and they came through
beautifully for us. said Avi, adding that his father, a rabbi in the
US, facilitated a religious Jewish ceremony for the couple prior to the
civil one. "
Yoav Loeff, spokesman for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI),
said that he was pleased that the High Court's decision in 2006-NOV paved the
way for other same sex couples to be recognized. However, he noted that
discrimination against same-sex couples remains high. He said: "There is
still discrimination in Israel, and not everyone can afford or wants to go to
Canada to get married," He suggested that Canada is the preferred country
for same-sex couples to marry because the country does not require either spouse
to be a citizen of Canada.
Irit Rosenblum, director of the New Family organization, said the
registration of a gay couple in the capital was especially significant following
the violent debate over the gay pride parade in Jerusalem. 14
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Gideon Alon, "Knesset to Debate
bill on Freedom of Religion," Israel Religious Action Center, 2001-JUN-11,
Beth Duff-Brown, "Four Gay Israeli Couples to Wed in Canada ; Will Take
Demand for Recognition to Israeli Supreme Court," The World Congress of Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Jews, 2005-MAR-11, at:
Mitch Potter, "Israel approves gay nuptials. 5 Toronto-wed couples win
case," The Toronto Star, 2006-NOV-22 at:
LifeSiteNews does not recognize that same-sex
marriages are real marriages. In order to denigrate SSM, they enclose the word
"marriage" in quotation marks whenever it refers to SSM. Other conservative
Christians and Christian groups follow the same format.
LifeSiteNews uses the term "activist" to refer to a couple seeking equal
justice under law, if the couple is of the same sex.
The Hebrew word "mezuzah" referred to above means a doorpost. It refers to a
scroll with specific verses of the Torah written on it, placed inside a
container, and attached to a doorpost outside of the home of a devout Jew.
John-Henry Westen, "Israel Must Register Homosexual 'Marriages' Performed
Abroad Rules High Court. Canada's Gay 'Marriage' Law Strikes Again,"
LifeSiteNews.com, 2006-NOV-21, at:
John-Henry Westen, "Gay 'Marriage' in Israel: Worse than Holocaust - Will
Cause Terrorism Warns Rabbi Levin," LifeSiteNews.com, 2006-NOV-21, at: