A ministerial committee Sunday shot down a bill that would have allowed the state to reimburse thousands of couples who are forced to marry abroad because they are unable to marry in Israel, under the Chief Rabbinate.
The bill, drafted by MKs Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), Ilan Gilon (Meretz) and Dov Hanin (Hadash), proposed that the Treasury Department refund couples for their nuptials abroad under the condition that at least one spouse is an Israeli citizen and resident.
Without support from the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, the bill cannot advance to the Knesset for a vote.
Marriage ceremonies for Jewish Israelis are performed under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate, which stipulates that both bride and groom be Jewish. Marriages between Jews and members of other faiths must be performed abroad, and are then recognized by the Interior Ministry.
While Israelis don’t need to pay for the rabbinate’s services, they must pay for ceremonies abroad.
The bill stated that marriage is a basic human right founded in both international and Israeli law.
“A democratic nation can not destroy a couple’s rights to marry according to their conscience,” read the bill.
Nearby countries like Cyprus or Greece have become popular sites for Israeli interfaith marriages and civil marriages.
The Orthodox rabbinate’s monopoly over marriage and divorce laws in Israel has come under fire from secular and pluralistic groups, which would like to see the state allow a form of civil marriage.