Israel’s ‘New Family’ Facilitates Common-law Marriages For International Couples
Country’s own marriage barriers unable to keep non-Israeli couples from tying the knot
Is Israel the new Las Vegas when it comes to getting hitched?
One advocacy group in the country that grants common-law marriage licenses believes so.
New Family, a Tel Aviv-based organization that advocates for family rights, has issued more than 60,000 of its trademarked Domestic Union Cards (DUC) since its founding ten years ago. The picture identification cards are granted after a couple signs a legal affidavit, which bestows upon them the same legal status as any other married couple.
While the majority of DUCs are obtained by Israelis, according to Irit Rosenblum, Founder and CEO of New Family, couples from abroad are increasingly traveling to Israel to obtain them—a trend she expects will continue in the coming years.
That international couples are coming to Israel to marry is somewhat ironic given the country’s notoriously stringent marriage laws, which preclude many Israelis themselves from tying the knot. Like several other countries in the region, interfaith and civil marriages are not recognized in Israel, where issues related to wedlock are essentially under the monopoly of the ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate.
This often forces Israeli couples to be legally married in places such as nearby Cyprus.
Rabbi Seth Farber, founder of the Israel-based ITIM, which helps Israelis navigate the rabbinate’s massive bureaucracy, says he supports the issuance of DUCs but is not aware of instances of international couples coming to Israel to obtain them.
“I applaud every effort that will get the government of Israel to rethink its position on marriage, but in the end this effort falls short of what really is needed,” he told The Media Line. “We think that there has to be alternatives to what exists today—in terms of marrying in Israel we believe strongly that there shouldn’t be a rabbinate.”
Rosenblum explained that while most of her non-Israeli clients come from Canada, she has also worked with couples from the United States, United Kingdom, South Africa, East Asian countries such as Indonesia and Singapore, among many others.
“Instead of giving the state the power to confirm your relationship you are taking the power,” she asserted, adding that she believes that choosing who to marry and how is a fundamental human right. “The power comes from the relationship itself and you are declaring that the state must accept it.”
In a July Facebook post, New Family highlighted the common-law marriage, through the issuance of one of its DUCs, of a non-Jewish Polish couple. Though Rosenblum would not comment on the couple’s specific reasoning for seeking out her organization, she told The Media Line that many people view the process as much easier than their domestic options.
“They feel like they don’t want to go to the municipality [or through local bureaucratic formalities],” Rosenblum elaborated. “People want to decide for themselves what is going on with their own lives.”
New Family also weds same-sex couples that are unable to marry in their home countries. In this respect, according to the Pew Research Center only 26 nations currently permit same-sex marriage, with the U.S. having only joined the group in 2015.
In order to obtain a Domestic Union Card, each individual must present two forms of identification, such as a passport or driver’s license, along with proof that the couple lives together by providing a housing contract, for example.
For couples to obtain the DUC they need to physically present themselves at New Family’s Tel Aviv office. If all is in order, a “shotgun wedding” can be completed on same day.
(Dina Berliner is a Student Intern in The Media Line’s Press and Policy Student Program)
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