The wheels of justice continue turning...

Hiddush on the legal front

Hiddush continues its legal advocacy for religious freedom on multiple fronts, in addition to public opinion polling, making presentations at Knesset committees and fighting for religious freedom and equality in the court of public opinion.

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1) We turned to the Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, and the Minister of Religious Services, Matan Kahana, as part of our efforts to promote freedom of marriage in Israel. Our request follows Kahana's statement in an interview last week, following a previous statement he made in support of allowing Israelis to marry outside of the Rabbinate, in which he said: “Why should thousands of Israeli couples have to leave the country to get married in Cyprus - and not be able to marry at its embassy in Tel Aviv?” Hiddush has already appeared and spoke on the issue of consular marriages in a deliberation held at the Knesset debate one year ago. In light of Minister Kahana’s words, and knowing that the only reason foreign embassies [such as the Norwegian Embassy] are not offering marriage services to Israelis is the directive they received from the Israeli Foreign Ministry in 1995 to refrain from marrying Israeli couples, we addressed these two ministers, emphasizing that it is possible to allow civil marriage in Israel tomorrow without any legislation, if the Foreign Minister would only inform the foreign embassies located in Israel that he no longer objects to their providing marriage services for Israelis. Further, Ministers Lapid and Kahana could work to convince the interior minister, Ayelet Shaked, to cancel the order of her predecessor, Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri, which forbid the Population Authority from registering online marriages conducted legally via Utah County in the USA. These avenues are of great importance, for, clearly, the ultimately desired legislative solution is not near.

2) We are preparing to expand the battle for the recognition of Utah online marriages beyond the two petitions we filed in the courts. In collaboration with JPLAN (Jewish Pluralism Legal Action Network), Hiddush will recruit American lawyers to join in pressuring Israel to recognize these marriages via Utah County, which are recognized and valid according to U.S. Law, which the Israeli government refuses to register, thereby preserving the monopoly of Israel’s Orthodox Chief Rabbinate over the marriages of all Jews in Israel.

This week, it became clear that Hiddush's petition caused the Ministry of Religious Services and the Ministry of Justice to publish a memorandum to amend the law regarding the appointment of appointees to manage the religious councils.

3) We have reported in the past on our consistent advocacy, over the course of many years, to ensure adequate gender representation on Israel’s religious councils, as well as on the petition we filed on this matter to the Supreme Court in our name and in the name of leading women's organizations. This week, it became clear that Hiddush's petition caused the Ministry of Religious Services and the Ministry of Justice to publish a memorandum to amend the law regarding the appointment of appointees to manage the religious councils. This memorandum also deals specifically with the issue of appointing women and with limiting the term of office of these appointments, which are supposed to be temporary appointments, even though most appointees have been serving for many years, serving the political interests of the ruling parties at the Ministry of Religious Services. The memorandum cites the Hiddush petition several times as a reason for initiating this legislation, which is intended to rectify the state of affairs, which Hiddush challenged.

4) We also reported in the past on our petition against the Jerusalem Municipality following requests by local activists in a number of neighborhoods, including Orthodox ones, against the city’s illegal policy regarding the construction of ‘eruvs’ (polls and cables spread throughout the city. Some of these eruvs are erected by extreme Haredi elements who insist upon more stringent religious practices than what is standard in mainstream Orthodoxy. Often, they thereby infringe upon private property and the public aesthetic, as well as generating safety hazards.) This week, the court awarded costs, after the municipality announced that it had formulated procedures aimed at rectifying the deficiencies we pointed out. The court concluded that our petition was both justified and necessary. Still, we are now working with these neighborhood representatives on a new petition because the newly established city procedures do not truly rectify the deficiencies… rather, they are intended to create the impression of due and legal process, while in reality they perpetuate and attempt to certify as “kosher” the improper policy.

5) We are initiating an expansion of the support we render Jerusalemite non-Jews, in safeguarding their religious freedom and equality. Towards this end, we visited this week with religious leaders of three Jerusalem churches to explore possibilities for cooperation and representation in areas where their rights are being infringed upon. As we make progress, we shall report in greater detail.

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