Want to get married? You just have to click
A new service allows diaspora Jews who want to marry in Israel to organise their marriage licence online.
Thousands of Jews fly to Israel to get married every year, but they have long been daunted by the bureaucracy of applying for a marriage licence from Israel's rabbinate.
Over the years many have given up and circumvented the Israeli rabbinate, bringing their own rabbi from abroad and registering the marriage back home. But given that Israel law states that marriages can only be performed by the national rabbinate, this has been seen as legally problematic.
Until two years ago, couples who wanted to do things according to the book had to make a trip to Israel a month before the wedding to register, and navigate the forms in Hebrew. But then ITIM, a Jerusalem-based non-profit group, started doing all the preparatory work for foreigners, and went on to help 200 diaspora couples to marry.
Now, the modern Orthodox ITIM has digitised the process, meaning that couples just need to request a form through its website, fill it in, and scan some supporting documents which professionals in Israel translate to Hebrew. The organisation sets up the licence and recruits an English-speaking rabbi in Israel.
The couple can arrive in Israel just before their wedding, only needing to visit the rabbinate's office to show their original documents and sign paperwork. The only costs are the rabbinate's fees of around £100 and a recommended donation to ITIM of £150.
"We were in and out of the rabbinate's office in 10 to 15 minutes, and I have heard that it can take hours," said Londoner Guy Kornetzki, who was due to tie the knot with his bride Ilana on April 5, near Tel Aviv. He said that ITIM's service was a "lifesaver".
ITIM's director, Seth Farber, said the option of registering the marriage back home was not only legally problematic but also costly, as a rabbi must be flown to Israel, and unsuitable for couples without close ties to a rabbi. His organisation finds couples an English-speaking Israeli rabbi. For couples who want their own rabbi to officiate, ITIM arranges for him to act as an agent of the Israeli rabbinate.
Rabbi Farber commented: "It is very special… that couples can easily come and not just celebrate here, but also officiate their marriage according to Israeli law."