Protest Held Against Arrest of Conservative Rabbi Who Conducted 'Illegal' Wedding

Religious court-ordered detention 'harms the state, not me,' says Rabbi Dov Haiyun, at Haifa prayer protest. A-G tells police to wait to interrogate him for now

Rabbi Dov Haiyun, a Conservative rabbi who has been arrested by the Chief Rabbinate for presiding over a wedding deemed to be illegal according to Jewish law, at a prayer protest at the Haifa Rabbinic Court, July 22, 2018.
rami shllush

Hundreds of people gathered Sunday in front of the Haifa Rabbinic Court to hold a prayer protest against the detention of Conservative Rabbi Dov Haiyun last week.

“This court does not represent me until there is room here for other streams [of Judaism]," said Haiyun, the rabbi of the city's Moriah Congregation, before the protest began.

“This court harms the State of Israel, not me personally, and that’s what the struggle is about," he added.

Haiyun was detained Thursday by the police on suspicion of illegally officiating at a wedding ceremony and not reporting it to the Chief Rabbinate.

This is apparently the first time the law has been enforced that allows only Orthodox rabbis to officiate at Jewish marriage ceremonies in Israel. The law calls for a two-year prison term for “anyone who does not see to the formal registration [at the Chief Rabbinate] of his own marriage or a divorce, or anyone who does not register a marriage or a divorce over which he has presided."

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has instructed the police not to question Haiyun until the matter is further clarified.

The woman and her partner who were married by Haiyun live in the Haifa area and originally wanted to have a wedding presided over by a representative of the rabbinate. However, they were deemed by the rabbinate to be ineligible to be married according to halakha (traditional Jewish law), because the woman is considered to be a mamzera (literally, a "bastard" – someone born in circumstances involving a relationship forbidden by and thus illegal according to halakha.) The couple then turned to Rabbi Haiyun, who, after studying the matter, determined that they were eligible and he married them two years ago.

According to Haiyun, about six months ago, the rabbinic court ruled that the woman could in fact marry. The court does not recognize Haiyun as a rabbi, however, because he was ordained by the Conservative movement.

Dr. Yizhar Hess, executive director of the Conservative movement in Israel, said: “The public in Israel wants open and accepting Judaism without coercion, of a type that respects each person according to his way and his customs. The time has come to release the shackles of the monopoly. The time has come for Israel to stop being the only place in the Western world where Jews do not enjoy religious freedom. Israel is losing the most important of its strategic assets – the Jewish people in the Diaspora.”