A spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday said his ministry made a mistake in sharing a video celebrating a range of weddings performed outside the state-run Chief Rabbinate, ceremonies that would not be recognized by the State of Israel.
Speaking to Army Radio, Emmanuel Nahshon took responsibility for the clip shared Thursday to the official account of the ministry’s digital diplomacy team. He said the video had been criticized both by liberals, who oppose the Orthodox rabbinate’s monopoly on all marriages in Israel, and by the rabbinate and the ultra-Orthodox community.
“We made a mistake,” he told the radio station. “Both in calling it ‘Alternative Weddings in Israel’ and also by addressing such a controversial topic. I accept full responsibility.”
However, he refused to remove the video from the ministry’s Twitter account.
#Wedding???????? day is a one you'll carry for the rest of your life, so what's the best way to get married? Israelis have various ways to celebrate this happy beginning – Watch: pic.twitter.com/8qyK0jtPFc
— Israel ישראל (@Israel) June 28, 2018
Israel’s rabbinate oversees all personal status issues for Jews, including marriage and divorce, and does not recognize civil unions conducted in the country, nor ceremonies performed by non-Orthodox officiators.
In recent years, some Orthodox rabbis have stepped up private ceremonies outside the rabbinate. Though performing such ceremonies is illegal and carries a prison sentence, the ban on the practice is not enforced by police.
Couples, including mixed-faith couples, who want to be recognized are forced to travel out of Israel to conduct a civil wedding overseas, with many going to nearby Cyprus.
The video spotlights several Israeli couples discussing their weddings and encouraging newlyweds-to-be to make their nuptials their own.
Two out of the three couples featured in the two-minute clip signaled that they wed outside the Orthodox rabbinate, making their nuptials entirely symbolic under Israeli law.
“We had a Friday noon wedding, an outdoor wedding, between some fields and trees and in nature. We didn’t have an Orthodox wedding, we got married by a friend. Together we wrote the ceremony and everything,” said Anat, who got married two months ago.
“In Israel, there’s the Orthodox way to get married, through the rabbanut [rabbinate] institute, and we formed a path that both of us are happy with,” added a woman identified as Efrat, without elaborating on what ceremony they ultimately settled on.
The Foreign Ministry, in a statement to The Times of Israel on Thursday, rebuffed the suggestion it was encouraging marriages outside the rabbinate.
“The Foreign Ministry shows the world all sorts of sides of the Israeli experience, including in married life. It should not be viewed as a recommendation or support to do this or otherwise,” a spokesperson said.
“If I were to make a movie about the gay community and you were not a member of the gay community, would you see it as a recommendation to become homosexual?” the spokesperson told The Times of Israel.
It was not immediately clear who the video was aimed at.