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Allon: Orthodox Religious Establishment Must Yield Some of Its Exclusive Authority

Deputy Premier Yigal Allon warned Israel’s Orthodox religious establishment today that there would have to be some changes made in the exclusive authority it wields over the private affairs of Israelis in such matters as marriage and divorce. Addressing the Labor Party convention, Allon said, “We are not a religious movement, but we are not anti-religious. However, one cannot accept the situation that the fate of individuals in this country is in the hand of those whose thinking and way of life is obsolete.” Allon said the problem was not one of separation between State and religion “but the creation of legal conditions by which every one in this country will be able to live according to his own belief.” Allon’s remarks reflected growing impatience inside and outside the government with the Orthodox rabbinate’s conduct in matters of conversion and in denying marriage licenses to persons it considers unfit to have them. The rabbinate recently refused to recognize the conversions performed in Vienna of the non-Jewish spouses of 54 Soviet immigrant families on their way to Israel. It denied marriage licenses to two young Israelis because their mother never formally divorced her first husband who, she thought, perished in the Nazi holocaust. According to religious law as practiced by the Israeli rabbinate her children were “illegitimate” and therefore unfit to marry “legitimate” persons. The case aroused widespread indignation in Israel. Labor Party leaders are reportedly considering the introduction of legislation that would provide civil marriages for Israelis who want them.

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