Postcard from... Jerusalem


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The Independent Online

There is an old saying that “Most Israelis don’t go to synagogue, but the synagogue which they don’t go to is orthodox.”

Indeed, the more modern branches of Judaism, which count the majority of Jewish adherents in the UK and worldwide, are unrecognised by the Israeli state. Con- versions and weddings have legal force in Israel only if they are conducted by orthodox rabbis. And there is no civil marriage in the Jewish state.

This anomaly hit close to home last week when I went to register my daughter as an American citizen at the US consulate in Jerusalem, which does not recognise the validity of marriages by non-orthodox rabbis. My own marriage certificate was pushed away by the consul as if it was a worthless scrap of paper. “If you like you can make a declaration that your child was born out of wedlock and we can then process the application,” the consul said.

He volunteered a suggestion for me to avoid problems in the future: go to Cyprus, get married (again) there and then register the wedding in Israel, which recognises foreign marriages, but not those of its own “non-kosher” rabbis. This is a time-honoured route taken by many couples who need to be legally married, but it merely perpetuates the monopoly.