Sharon Tells Lapid: Religious Affairs Ministry to Close
Within One Year
by E Rauchberger
Following a meeting between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and
Justice Minister Yosef Lapid Monday morning, the two
announced that the religious councils (moatzot dat)
would begin to be dismantled within days and the Ministry of
Religious Affairs would be dismantled within the new
government's first year in power.
Although still in his first week as Justice Minister, Lapid
plans to table a revolutionary bill in the Knesset in the
near future that would allow civil marriage in Israel for the
first time, according to a report in Yediot Achronot
that included a copy of the proposed bill drafted by the
Justice Ministry. The bill would provide a solution for tens
of thousands of pesulei chitun previously unable to
marry in Israel, but not to couples who, although
halachically eligible to marry, elect for civil marriage. Now
they have to travel abroad for such a ceremony which is then
recognized in Israel, but they would prefer not to travel
abroad. According to the proposed law, which was approved by
the Mafdal during coalition negotiations, "Every individual
has a fundamental right to marry and set up a family, but the
in Israel there is a large number of citizens who are unable
to utilize these rights in practice" because they cannot
marry everyone--pesulei chitun.
The law purports to help Israelis and Israeli residents who
are currently considered pesulei chitun such as,
couples from different religions, those whose religion is not
recognized as a religion, and those who have no religion.
According to legal experts, the most acute problems in this
area are among new immigrants from Ethiopia and from the
former Soviet Union.
Today unqualified couples marry abroad, by correspondence or
in consular marriages. According to the proposed law these
couples would be recognized as married by the Couples'
Registrar, a new institution that would be set up at the
The bill also addresses divorce for pesulei chitun.
According to the bill, "Today those who wish to divorce must
contact the Attorney General and wait for his decision, which
is an unreasonable [procedure]."