Haaretz Op-Ed: Ben Gurion's Marriage Monopoly Mistake

Civil marriage is coming to Israel one way or another. It may take five or fifty years but it is coming. It's because of what I call rabbinic RAFU - Rabbis always foul it up. No matter how good they have it, they manage to lose it.

Ben-Gurion's mistake
By Asher Maoz

On August 23, 1953, the government discussed a proposed law that would give the rabbinate a monopoly over the marriages and divorces of Jews. A few cabinet ministers, among them justice minister Pinchas Rosen, opposed granting exclusivity over marriages to Orthodox rabbis, on the grounds that they are unnecessarily strict.

Among other things, the cabinet discussed the demand by marriage officiants that the bride bathe in a mikveh (ritual bath) before the marriage ceremony. The deputy prime minister, Moshe Sharett, related that his mother, who got married in Ukraine, his own wife, who married in London, and his daughter, who married in the United States, were not required to do so, even though they were married in Orthodox ceremonies.

Golda Meir, the minister of labor, called the demand for ritual baths "savagery, and I don't know whether they ever observed this even in the Middle Ages." And she added: "Now I want to say that there is also proteksia (favoritism) in these matters. My daughter got married and she didn't go through this procedure. The whole procedure of the rabbi who performed her marriage ceremony was humane and simple and it dignified the occasion. But there are girls who don't have a mother or a father in the government, and they have to go through this whole path, which is a shame and a disgrace." ....more

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