Non-Orthodox weddings: Rabbi gets nabbed by Israeli police
In a 5am raid on his home last week, Rabbi Dov Haiyun, above, was hauled in by Haifa police and interrogated ‘Iran-style’ over his practice of conducting non-Orthodox weddings.
Police, according to this report, acted on a complaint lodged by a local rabbinical court.
But Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit intervened last Thursday and ordered the police halt the questioning of the Conservative rabbi brought in earlier in the day over weddings he conducted outside the auspices of state-run Chief Rabbinate.
Haiyun, who has been officiating at non-Orthodox weddings in Israel for decades, was released several hours later, after committing to appear for another round of questioning on Monday (today).
The Justice ministry said in a statement:
After an initial clarification of the matter, the Attorney General instructed police not to summon Rabbi Haiyun for a criminal investigation until the completion of a clarification into whether his actions raise suspicions of a criminal offence.
Haiyun said he was shocked by his arrest and said Israel was becoming an Orthodox theocracy.
Iran is here already. I am not an offender, not a murderer, not a criminal. I was amazed. The police has been drawn into becoming a tool in the hands of the Orthodox rabbinate. It is a sad day for Israeli democracy.
Politicians, mostly from opposition parties, blasted Haiyun’s treatment and criticised the Orthodox control of the rabbinate.
Avi Gabbay, leader of the main opposition faction the Zionist Union, accused the rabbinate of acting to quash competitors in a statement.
This is not Iran here! The police cannot be a religious force operated by the rabbis who are afraid of competition. Be welcoming, respect women who want a get [divorce document], give service to people instead of sending the police! I call on the chief of police to make sure that this first incident is also the last.
Head of the left-wing Meretz party opposition MK Tamar Zandberg said she intends to ask Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan for “accountability.”
It is not clear when the Israel Police became a religious police which arrests people for their faith and holding a wedding according to their ways. What is clear is that this show of force won’t stop the tens of thousands of couples who marry each year outside of the rabbinate and no one will manage to stop that.
Opposition MK Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, warned of how Haiyun’s detention would be perceived among US Jews, most of whom are not Orthodox.
This is mad ultra-Orthodox coercion. Have we gone crazy? Think about world Jewry. What will the millions of Jews in the US think when they wake up this morning and hear that in Israeli affairs their beliefs and faith are a criminal offence? What does it say about us that Israel has become the only democracy in the world in which Jews don’t have freedom of religion? The religious establishment is convinced that if it controls Netanyahu, it controls the country.
MK Yehudah Glick, above, a religious member of the ruling Likud party, tweeted:
There are some things which are not supposed to happen in a democratic state and this is one of them. Unnecessary, damaging, stupid.
In contrast, MK Bezalel Smotrich, above, from the hawkish national-religious Jewish Home party, said the law must be upheld.
Pulling in someone in the early hours of the morning is indeed an unnecessary and damaging police practice. But – and it is a big but – the law is the law and if someone breaks it then they have to stand trial. I support the rabbinate and the police.
Leaving marriages and divorce in the hands of the Chief Rabbinate according to the Torah is important and critical in order for us to remain a unified people and in order that in another few generations we can marry one another without worry. The shortsighted demand to change it is irresponsible and we will do everything to prevent it.
Rabbis for Human Rights said in a statement:
As a nondenominational organization of rabbis who believe that Judaism has a many faces we hope that Israel will come to its senses, and that the day will come in which all different paths to be a Jew will be recognized in our country.
This report explains that, according to the law, rabbis that perform any non-sanctioned weddings in Israel could also be subject to prosecution – so can the bride and groom. When the measure was passed in 2013, a Chief Rabbinate spokesman said that non-Orthodox weddings would only run afoul of the law if they were performed using traditional Jewish rites.
Haiyun uses a traditional Jewish ceremony in his weddings, so a religious court in Haifa invoked the law and ordered the police to interrogate him.
Before last week, the law was never enforced.
UJA-Federation of New York called Haiyun’s detention:
Dramatically inconsistent with Israel’s promise as the home of the entire Jewish people.
Even the American Federation of Teachers felt compelled to weigh in. The president of the union, Randi Weingarten, who is married to a rabbi, condemned Haiyun’s detention as one of a series of “anti-democratic and nativist actions” in Israel.
Haiyun says he isn’t worried that this will deter other couples from seeking non-Orthodox weddings. In the day-and-a-half since he was detained, he’s received a number of requests to perform weddings. He knows of other couples who have sent their names into local police stations confessing to their non-Chief Rabbinate weddings.
I only benefited from this and the Conservative movement only benefited from the publicity. Finally, it’s time for the State of Israel to deal with this issue and solve it.