THE SPINE NOVEMBER 24, 2006
Civil marriage is not permitted in Israel. Historically--that is, when the state was founded in 1947-1948--this was less a concession to the rabbis than to the Muslims and especially to the Christians of Palestine, who were fiercely represented by the Catholic countries in the U.N. General Assembly. The representatives of these governments extracted many concessions from the Zionists in exchange for support of the Partition Plan. Among these was that matters of personal status were to be left to the official religious communions. And so it has been.
But the Israeli judicial system has narrowed the definition of personal status so, for example, people who are married outside Israel, and mixed marriages, in particular, are simply registered with the authorities and they are married, basta, and all the rights and obligations of marriage apply to these people, too. Now, until this past Tuesday, for gay couples, the one thing they couldn't do was to register their marriages. Still, although they weren't legally married, these couples had virtually all the rights of married couples.
For example: if one man in a couple was killed during service in the army, his partner would be the recipient of his death benefits. So slowly but surely the Supreme Court of Israel impinged on the monopoly in family law of the sectarian religious courts. Jewish, Christian, Muslim.
This week, the Supreme Court, in a ruling of six to one, recognized same sex marriages performed abroad. Not much, you say. But, in Israel, and because of the Zionist concessions to Christian pressures, a non-believing Jew cannot marry a non-believing Greek Orthodox in Israel because no rabbi or priest would or could officially marry them. This, too, will change. But Israel from now on will recognize the marriages of gay people performed in any country where gay marriages are conducted. In this high court case, six couples petitioned and won.
According to an Associated Press dispatch in the New York Sun Wednesday, a fervently religious member of Knesset declared, "We don't have a Jewish state here. We have Sodom and Gomorrah here." Which we also must have in Massachusetts. But not in New York, which doesn't even recognize gay marriages performed in the Bay State. Or anywhere else, for that matter.
And what do they have in Palestine? Don't ask. That's why so many gay Palestinians take refuge in Israel. O.K.: do ask. Gay Palestinians are often simply murdered. But this is an honor killing so the killers don't get punished. An honor killing like the murder of women who are raped. Who performs these honor killings? Usually a brother or other close member of the family. After all, it is their honor which has been besmirched.