Haaretz - Chief rabbi lobbies Israel MKs to reject new marriage law
- Haaretz - Fri, January 06, 2012
• Published 01:09 06.01.12
• Latest update 01:09 06.01.12
Chief rabbi lobbies Israel MKs to reject new marriage law
Rabbi Yona Metzger sends letter outlining the negative consequences of
the 'Tzohar bill'; says legislation potentially disastrous.
By Jonathan Lis
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger on Thursday contacted all 120 MKs and
urged them to reject a Knesset bill that would grant couples the freedom
to choose the rabbinate office where they marry.
Acknowledging that it was unusual for a chief rabbi to intervene in a
political issue, Metzger wrote a letter outlining the negative
consequences of the so-called "Tzohar bill," proposed by MK Faina
Kirshenbaum (Yisrael Beiteinu). At present, couples are affiliated to
rabbinate offices according to their place of residence.
Metzger wrote he was approaching the MKs "from heart to heart" in an
effort to halt the legislation. The bill is named after an organization
of modern Orthodox rabbis that has offered to perform marriages to
Jewish couples wishing to wed in Israel. There is no Jewish civil
marriage within Israel.
Metzger characterized the legislation, which would amend the Marriage
Law, as potentially disastrous. He said it would result in the birth of
children who were deemed "mamzerim" under Jewish religious law, a status
that limits their right to marry other Jews.
"I am contacting you with an emotional plea," Metzger wrote, "out of a
deep concern for the wholeness and unity of our people." He invited the
MKs to meet with him individually, and wrote that there were other
changes that could be made to the marriage registration in what he
called a "controlled and responsible manner."
The "Tzohar bill" received preliminary approval by the Knesset at the
end of December, garnering broad-based support from both coalition
parties and the opposition following a cabinet decision to support it.
In response to Metzger's letter yesterday, Kirshenbaum said: "The
Knesset, and not the chief rabbinate, is still the legislative entity in
the State of Israel. We will demand that the bill go to the
Constitution, Justice and Law Committee to ensure that it is passed
Metzger hinted in his letter that he would be amenable to rival
legislation on the subject, sponsored by Kadima MK Otniel Schneller.
That bill, which passed preliminary reading but has been stalled in the
Knesset's Interior and Environment Committee for more than 18 months, is
considered more permissive than Kirshenbaum's in relaxing rules on
bringing witnesses or couples certifying that they are not already married.