Everything you need to know about marriage in Israel

5 Mar 2023·20 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Israel 01

Israel is a country in the Middle East known for its rich history and beautiful landmarks. Over 30,000 marriages are performed in the country every year by Israelis according to their religious beliefs and community. Generally, only religious marriages are recognized and protected by law in Israel. Unlike in most other countries, where a civil marriage is the most widely performed or legally binding marriage, the reverse is the case here. Civil marriages are not allowed in Israel. Inter-faith marriages that are conducted in the country are also not legally binding, although if such a marriage is performed in another country, it will be recognized in Israel. 

The laws guiding the act of marriage are based on the confessional community system, or millet. This has been in existence since the Ottoman Empire and is still being adopted today. Both Israelis and foreigners are not presented with a lot of marriage options, as only certain religions and denominations of Christianity are allowed to perform legally binding marriages. In Israel, the legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years old. This implies that a person must reach the age of 18 before they are permitted to get married in the country. This law was introduced in 2013. The norm before was 18 for boys and 17 for girls. 

However, the minimum age of 18 now applies to both genders. The average age at which Israelis get married is 25 years, and this has been a result of the generally perceived need for early marriages that has stemmed over the years. In the past, thousands of marriages were performed by underage (under 18) girls, but this has changed in recent times. The rest of this article will tell you more about the principles of religious marriages in Israel as well as the laws and rights guiding the marriage act in the country.

Religious Marriages 

In Israel, religious marriages are the only type of marriage that is legally binding and recognized by law. For a marriage to be legal, it must have been performed under the auspices of certain religious bodies. These are the faiths of the Jewish, Druze, Muslim, and ten Christian denominations. The Christian denominations accepted are the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Catholic, Armenian Apostolic, Chaldean, Syriac Catholic, Maronite, Melkite Greek Catholic, Anglican, and Syriac Orthodox Churches. Marriages performed in a religion or denomination outside of these ones are not recognized and protected by the laws of the country.

The way marriages are conducted and their practices are generally based on the principles of one’s religious association. For Jewish marriages performed in the country, the religious authority overseeing the marriage act is the Rabbinical Court or the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. These marriages are officiated by an authorized Rabbi, and they are registered by the Israeli Interior Ministry. To be legally married in the country, there are certain conditions that must be met by both spouses. Both spouses must be at least 18 years old, and they must both be of the same religion. This implies that in situations where the partners have different religions, either of them must convert for their religion to match and remain the same. Also, all recognized marriages must be performed by authorized officiants. 

Even though civil marriages are not performed in Israel, the country accepts those performed in foreign countries. This also applies to interfaith and same-sex marriages performed abroad. These laws have resulted in some Israelis traveling to foreign countries to perform destination weddings. A popular country where Israelis conclude their ceremony due to restrictions in their country is Cyprus, because of its close proximity. Classes on family purity must be attended by Jewish couples before they are allowed to get married. This applies to both religious and non-religious ones. Over the years, the number of couples performing marriages outside the Rabbinate has faced a consistent drop. There are some Halachic conditions that must be met by Israelis who want to conduct a Jewish marriage and obtain a marriage certificate. These are stated below.

Conditions for marriage

  • Marriage authorities are not allowed to perform a marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew.
  • If a non-Jew desires to marry a Jew in Israel, they must legally convert their religion before the marriage ceremony.
  • Spouses must ensure that their Jewish marriage is performed by an Orthodox Rabbi.
  • Those performed under other denominations, whether reform or conservative, are generally not legally recognized in Israel.
  • In Israel, a male Cohen of priestly lineage is not allowed to get married to a convert or divorced woman.
  • A certificate of bachelorhood must be provided by divorced spouses, and it must have been obtained from an Orthodox rabbinic court.
  • The Orthodox Rabbinate does not conduct marriages between same-sex couples.

Civil unions and domestic partnerships

As stated earlier, civil marriages are not allowed in Israel. Jewish Israelis who are unable or do not wish to get married through the Israeli rabbinate may conduct a civil union. Civil ceremonies performed abroad are legally binding in Israel. In Israel, domestic partnership is allowed, and this option is usually used by spouses who are irreligious and have no religious affiliation. Domestic partnerships in Israel are referred to as "Brit Zuguit," and there are conditions that must be met by both spouses as well as documents that may be required. These are stated below.

Conditions for Domestic Partnership

  • Both partners must be permanent residents of Israel. A spouse who is temporarily residing in the country may not be in a domestic partnership.
  • Domestic partnerships are only permitted between men and women who are at least 18 years old.
  • Both partners must be single and not in any form of marriage with other people or each other in Israel or any other country abroad.
  • For a domestic partnership, both spouses must not be related to each other by blood or affinity.

Documents required 

  • National Identity Card or a valid passport
  • Deed poll. This is required from spouses who previously changed their names.
  • Proof of residence This must show that both spouses are living in Israel.
  • Divorce or death certificate. Separated or widowed spouses are required to submit this document.
  • Both spouses must provide two witnesses within their legal capacity to perform this duty.
    Receipt of the payment of all relevant fees
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Marriage traditions in Israel

Ketubah 

The Jewish wedding contract is known as the Ketubah. It includes all the marriage terms, such as conjugal and financial obligations, as well as the roles and responsibilities of the man and his wife. The Ketubah must be signed by the couple as well as the two witnesses they must have provided. Most times, the marriage contract is signed at a ceremony or small party organized by the groom and his male friends.

The Ceremony

Jewish marriages can be extravagant as they include several ceremonial rites. A typical Ashkenazi Jewish ceremony includes the seven blessings referred to as Sheva Brachot, the Ketubah, and the exchange of rings. During this ceremony, the bride walks in a circle seven times around the groom; however, some couples do the walk together by splitting it and walking around each other. During this walk, the seven blessings are recited, with the first one being over a cup of wine that the spouses drink from.

Bedeken

The Bideken in Israel is a Yiddish term that refers to the ceiling ceremony. It is a ceremonial rite that is highly anticipated in marriages. Here, the groom lifts the veil over the face of his bride and recites a blessing. It is also customary for the father of the bride as well as other elders of the family to say a blessing for the bride. This marriage tradition is performed by the Ashkenazi, and the ceremony is mostly attended by the families of the groom and bride as well as their invited friends.

Same-sex Marriages 

Marriage between two people of the same sex is illegal in Israel. However, the country allows spouses of the same sex to conduct this type of marriage in other foreign countries where it is accepted. Israel has been registering same-sex marriages since 2006. In Israel, only religious marriages performed in the country are generally recognized and legally binding, and none of them allow marriage between two people of the same sex. 

It is legal for a person to be a homosexual or perform same-sex sexual activity in Israel. Same-sex couples may not be susceptible to discrimination because the majority of the people living in the country support same-sex marriages. Same-sex couples who want to marry can easily perform a civil marriage ceremony in another country where such a ceremony is permitted.

Polygamous Marriages 

Polygamy is illegal in Israel. A man is only allowed to marry a woman, and marriages between multiple spouses are prohibited. However, polygamous marriages are prevalent and still widely practiced by certain groups in the country. The Bedouin community still practices polygamous marriages. Israel has about 250,000 Bedouin citizens, and Bedouin have been known to marry multiple wives. 

However, only one of the marriages may be officially registered, and this has hindered the tracking of multiple marriages in the country. Even though under sharia law a Muslim man is allowed to marry more than one wife, such marriages are not common in the country. The majority of the Muslim men in Israel marry only one wife at any given point in time.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws and Rights

The minimum legal age for marriage in Israel is 18 years, and this must be reached by both spouses before they are allowed to get married in the country. Inter-faith marriages are not legally binding in Israel. Couples who want to perform inter-faith marriages may only do so in foreign countries. These types of marriages conducted in another country are legally binding in Israel. A civil union is performed in cases where both partners have no religious affiliation. Religious spouses are required to perform Jewish marriages. For a Jewish marriage to take place and be recognized and protected by Israeli law, both partners must be heterosexual and Jewish.

Marriages in the country may only be conducted in a Rabbinical Court, and they must be in accordance with both spouses' religious affiliation. Marriage is not allowed between two people of the same sex in Israel. Spouses who have a mixed religion are also not allowed to conduct a legal marriage in the country. Domestic partnerships in Israel may enjoy some of the rights and benefits available to legally married couples. Before a marriage is allowed, a Certificate of Bachelorhood must be obtained by the prospective spouse from the local rabbi in Israel. Male spouses must provide two valid Israeli witnesses who can attest to the fact that he is legally single in the country. 

In Israel, a marriage is only allowed to take place fourteen days after the date of application to the Chief Rabbinate. A civil divorce may only happen as a result of mutual consent from both partners, except under special conditions such as incapacity.
Both spouses have the right to work and earn a living in the country. The man and his wife have the right to sign a prenuptial contract and be entitled to their own assets at the time of marriage and during the marriage. Also, both spouses have the right to own jointly held assets, where they get to share the profits and liabilities. The husband and wife both have the right to raise their children according to their religious beliefs and moral grounds. The two partners have a right to fair and equal treatment and entitlement to marital benefits from the government.

Costs 

Performing a wedding ceremony in Israel can be quite expensive, and couples must budget their wedding expenses according to the number of guests who will be present at the event. Israeli marriages average between NIS 100,000 and NIS 140,000. The major expenses to be incurred include the cost of renting a venue and catering. The average cost of renting an event hall may range from NIS 70,000 to NIS 90,000, and the average cost of catering per person may be NIS 600 to NIS 700. 

The eventual cost depends on how large the wedding ceremony will be. If the couple will be holding multiple parties with hundreds of guests, they can expect to spend more. Destination weddings can also be quite expensive due to the cost of transporting several guests to another country. The total amount spent comes down to how deep the pockets of the couple and their respective families are.

Duties 

In Israel, the husband and wife must fulfill certain duties and obligations. In recent times, husband and wife are regarded as equals; however, traditionally, the roles and responsibilities of both spouses may be quite different. The first duty of both spouses is to have mutual love and respect for each other. The couple is also expected to respect and honor their respective families. The husband is expected to provide quiet times for his wife and family. 

He must provide a dwelling place and make sure the family is comfortable and well cared for. The husband and wife owe it to each other to cohabit in peace and harmony in order to raise children and provide them with everything they need to live a happy life. The husband and wife must support each other, as well as their children, in matters concerning them individually as well as the whole family at large. The wife has the responsibility of maintaining the household and ensuring all activities progress smoothly.

Final Thoughts  

Israel is a very religious country, and only religious marriages are recognized in the country. Civil marriages are not performed in Israel and, as such, hold no legal grounds. Religious marriages are only performed between two spouses of the same religious belief, and in cases where either or both spouses have no religious affiliation, they may conduct a domestic partnership or civil union. This type of union, however, does not include all the rights and responsibilities of official marriages in the country. The country does not allow both same-sex and polygamous marriages. Israel differs from other countries with same-sex marriage laws in that it recognizes spouses who married in another country.

Israel has various beautiful wedding locations where thousands of marriages are held by Israelis every year. The top wedding venues in the country include The Lawrence, The Q, and Gioia Mia. The country has a lot of unique traditions, and these ceremonial sites are performed according to tones, religious beliefs, and community. Spouses who want to get married in the country must ensure that they meet all the criteria presented by their religious body. The marriage criteria for a Christian marriage are quite different from those of a Muslim marriage in the country. The types of religions whose marriages are legally binding in Israel were previously stated in this article, and they all have various ways of conducting their ceremonies. This article is a complete guide to everything you need to know about marriage in Israel.

 

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