A number of Israeli rabbis, authorized by the Rabbinate to perform weddings recognized by the state, have been conducting fictitious wedding ceremonies between Jews and non-Jews, a new report by Channel 2 has revealed.
Under Israeli law a holdover from the Ottoman rulers prior to the British Mandate – weddings performed in Israel are recognized only through religious authorities – be they Jewish, Muslim, or Christian.
With no civil marriage system, individuals affiliated with different religions are unable to have state-recognized marriages performed in Israel.
A number of rabbis, however, are apparently performing such weddings, marrying Jews to non-Jews – in violation of both Israeli state law and the Jewish religious prohibition on intermarriage.
The ceremonies, conducted for a hefty fee, enable the couples to claim Israeli marriage licenses.
According to a report by Channel 2, the phenomenon is far from rare, with a number of couples revealing that the rabbis willing to perform such ceremonies were well known among non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who made up the bulk of the non-Jews involved in such marriages.
A spokesperson from the Ministry of Religious Services responded to the report, saying that the matter “sounds very serious and will be investigated and dealt with”.
Several rabbis admitted to Channel 2 they were involved in such fictitious weddings.
One said he charged 3,000 shekels ($800) for his services, adding that he gave customers their money’s worth.
“I come with a Ketuba [wedding contract] and everything you need and perform [the wedding] according to religious tradition. No one needs to know anything.
The service costs 3,000 shekels. I make a very impressive and interesting wedding service; the guests aren’t bored and certainly don’t feel the difference between this and the real thing.”