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‘one Israel’ Coalition Supports Civil Marriage, Shabbat Transport

If the Labor Party wins Israel’s elections, the Jewish state may, for the first time, have civil marriages and public transportation on Shabbat.

“One Israel,” the umbrella list that Labor leader Ehud Barak is forming with David Levy’s Gesher movement and the politically moderate religious movement Meimad is expected to advocate a cancellation of the religious status quo, an Israeli daily reported.

According to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, these changes are included in the understanding drawn up between Labor and Meimad and would serve as the basis for a coalition agreement.

The understanding draws from the “new covenant” on religion and state initiated last year by Labor Knesset member Yossi Beilin, Third Way Knesset member Alex Lubotzky, who has since joined the new centrist party, and representatives from Meimad.

The paper said the agreement would allow public transportation on the Jewish Sabbath, as determined by the local authorities, based on the needs and character of the population.

In contrast, all business and commercial transactions would be barred, with the exception of cultural, sport and leisure activities.

The agreement would also call for the establishment of a framework for civil marriages in Israel, something which does not currently exist.

Recent surveys have shown that a high percentage of Israelis would like the option of civil marriages, rather than the current requirement that all marriages be authorized through the Orthodox rabbinate.

Beilin, who negotiated the understanding with Meimad, was quoted by Ha’aretz as saying the changes in the status quo would require a coalition under Barak to pass several pieces of legislation.

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