Everyone told me what to expect: problems, rudeness, long lines, maybe even crying.
“If your parents’ ketuba says ‘temple’ they will automatically assume they got married in a Reform process so they won’t accept it. My friend had to go through hell to prove her parents were married and she was Jewish.”
“If you want your rabbi from abroad to officiate the ceremony, well, expect a fight and then even when you think you’ve won, expect to lose… That’s what happened to my friends.”
“They’ll go on strike the week before your wedding and then – well – my friends almost couldn’t get married.”
My experience at the Rabbanut of Jerusalem wasn’t any of those things, at least not today. The process went smoothly, from one official to the next until we finished as much as we could in one day. Tomorrow I have to go to the Beit Din with two friends to prove that I am single. Fair enough.
Look, the Rabbanut of Israel (the modern version of a religious court system) has many flaws. It basically deals with marriage, divorce, conversion and a few other issues. All Jews must marry through the Rabbinate, so they have to get married a certain way, prone to issues they wouldn’t run into in, say, America. They ask if you are taking niddah classes – and you actually have to have a teacher sign you off, even if you only meet with her once. You have to prove your Judaism (even if you didn’t convert), and Reform, and even sometimes Conservative, is not enough. You also have to prove you are single.
Of course, you can’t marry a non-Jew under the Rabbanut. It also means you have to have a religious process for your wedding – chuppah and a rav officiating. You may not like that, and decide to go to Cyprus and get married without all the religious restrictions – you wouldn’t be alone. The people without a declared religion – without a Christian, Muslim or Jewish clergy marrying them – are forced to do it all the time [that is due to a lacking Israeli law that deals with this type of issue].
But you know what? For me, it works I think. It felt somehow familiar to go through those offices today, to sit in front of this rav with a classic beard, sitting behind a desk equipped only with a phone and a pen, in a dimly-lit room. I kind of felt like for an hour today, I was playing in biblical Israel, an Israelite girl going through just one process of life.
I kinda wish more of daily life was like that here. Maybe a little crazy, but part of me wonders if it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to let in more theology to the government. I realize the specifics are complicated; I realize that modern-day issues are not addressed really, but what if they were? What if everyone participated in a few more unique Jewish traditions?