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Knesset Considering Changes in List of Ineligible Marriages

Recommended changes in the controversial list of persons ineligible for marriage according to Jewish Law are under consideration by a Knesset committee to which the issue was referred following a debate in the full Knesset yesterday. The recommendations were made by States Attorney Aharon Barak who ruled last week that as long as Israeli law invests the rabbinate with exclusive jurisdiction over marriage and divorce, the list was in principle a legal and necessary means for applying the marriage and divorce laws.

But Barak found flaws in the way the list was compiled and administered. He said changes should be made to omit from the list information on persons who have not applied for marriage permits and on co-respondents in divorce cases. He said persons on the list should be informed of the fact and given an opportunity to state their case, which has not always been done in the past.

Barak also recommended that the list be kept only at the Religious Affairs Ministry in Jerusalem instead of being distributed in copy to the 200-odd marriage registrars around the country which has resulted in leaks of information about individuals that amounted to invasion of their privacy.

The States Attorney did not address himself to the fundamental question of civil marriage and divorce which does not exist in Israel and which many Israelis are demanding as an alternative to the rigid Orthodox interpretation of halachic law. The States Attorney said that issue was outside his terms of reference when he was asked by the government to determine whether the list violated Israeli law.

PROPOSE CIVIL MARRIAGE

Proponents of civil marriage reiterated their views in yesterday’s Knesset debate, Yehuda Shaari of the Independent Liberal Party, said the only solution to the “blacklist” problem was to establish civil marriage for persons the rabbinate forbids to marry.

A civil marriage bill was introduced last year by ILP Minister-Without-Portfolio Gideon Hausner, but the ILP agreed to hold it in abeyance for a year in order to preserve unity within the coalition government that includes the National Religious Party. A similar civil marriage bill, introduced recently by Mapam MK Haika Grossman, will be discussed by a Knesset committee shortly.

Meanwhile, Religious Affairs Minister Yitzhak Rafael has promised to cooperate in correcting flaws in the marriage list. The Religious Ministry had originally denied any knowledge of such a list but later acknowledged that it existed after several MKs, including former Cabinet Minister, Shulamit Aloni, now the head of the Civil Rights Party, produced evidence of it a month ago.

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