Celebrations | With civil marriage not an option in Israel, for many it’s fight — or flight
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In America, those seeking to avoid large-scale weddings can elope to Las Vegas. In Israel, couples elope to Cyprus — but for legal reasons. Civil marriages are currently not a viable option in Israel, because all weddings must be overseen by a religious authority.
“There is one commonly practiced way of avoiding the civil marriage ban (and thus the monopoly of religion over marriage), which is to get married abroad in countries that allow civil marriage for non-citizens and non-residents,” writes Zvi Triger, a senior lecturer at the Haim Striks School of Law, in a recent study on civil marriage.
The most popular destination for this is Cyprus, which is nearby and economical. It’s chosen by couples who are not permitted to get married in Israel (such as a Jew and a non-Jew), and also by those who object to the required religious ceremony. In Israel, the only acceptable religious ceremony is an Orthodox one.
“There are thousands of people who don’t want the state involved in their private life,” says Irit Rosenblum, a lawyer and founder of New Family (http://www.newfamily.org.il), an organization started in 1998 that advocates for all Israelis to gain marital and family rights.
The only Jews who can marry in Israel, according to Jewish law, are a Jewish man and a Jewish woman who are both single. Many people skirt such restrictions by getting married in Cyprus, where the tourist industry offers packages that include airfare, hotel and the ceremony. — jns.org
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