Written by: Chloe Smeader
Marriage seems to be a common right everyone should have access to, but in Israel, due to religion dominating family matters, certain laws prevent civil unions from occurring. Many people wish to immigrate to Israel, and for some, citizenship through marriage is the easiest option. Currently, Israeli citizens can pass on citizenship to a spouse if they participate in a process to determine the relationship’s legitimacy. Any marriage will be recognized in Israel, but the ceremony must happen outside the country if it involves an interfaith, same-sex couple, or a couple that can’t marry due to other religious rules.
History of Marriage in Israel:
When Israel was founded in 1948, David Ben-Gurion concluded that the only marriage recognized in the country was between a Jewish man and a woman and would continue to be determined by religious authorities. The other popular religions in Israel consist of Christianity and Islam, and their marriages are also accepted if their respective religious institution performs the ceremony. As the world has progressed as a whole, Israel has followed. Gay and interfaith marriages are not traditionally accepted in Jewish religious texts but are now considered legitimate. Previously, these marriages would still not be recognized whether they were performed within Israel or outside the country.
In 1952 the Law of Nationality was created and states that any Israeli can pass on citizenship to their spouse. Over the years, this issue has become complex as this law has been refined. Originally “The Basic Law of Human Dignity and Liberty (1992) of Israel specifically states that “every person has a right to privacy and to intimacy in his life,” and therefore can marry whomever they like, regardless of nationality, sex, or any other common barriers to marriage.” This still is in place today, but the rules of gaining citizenship from marriage have changed.
What Marriages Are Recognized by Israel?
Israel is recognized as a secular parliamentary democracy, but religion still is prevalent in the decision-making of politics and government. Marriage in Israel differs from other countries because family, marriage, and divorce issues are typically under the jurisdiction of religious or rabbinical courts, which utilize religious law. The government recognizes marriages between Jewish couples, but a rabbinical court must oversee the wedding.
What Marriages Are NOT Recognized by Israel?
Israel does recognize same-sex marriage and marriages of non-religious persons if they choose to marry abroad; for persons who wish to be married but are not in a heterosexual and same-religion relationship, this is their only option.
What Do These Laws Mean for Palestinians?
The process differs for marriages between Palestinian and Israeli couples because Palestinians are not eligible to gain citizenship in Israel, no matter the circumstances, even regarding marriage. This is because, in 2003, the Citizenship and Entry Law largely barred Palestinians who were married to Israelis from obtaining permanent residency. Due to this law, if an Israeli married to Palestinian wishes to live with their spouse, they would have to emigrate from Israel.
What Could Affect Your Ability to Immigrate?
Some scenarios exist where access may be denied, no matter your status. The first is the support of any Palestinian-led movement. A popular one is the BDS movement which promotes boycotts, divestments, and economic sanctions against Israel. The Ministry of Internal Affairs will also look into if you are a security threat as well as if you are danger risk to Israel. Suppose someone trying to immigrate to Israel has a criminal record. In that case, it may become hard to obtain citizenship because the country wants to avoid dangerous people entering it, no matter their religious affiliation. Two other common deterrents include; conversion from Judaism and if someone has an untreatable contagious disease. Security may look into if you have tried to immigrate to Israel before and if issues occurred during that process.
The Process of Proving a Marriage is Legitimate:
The Israel Citizenship Law pertains to various situations in gaining citizenship. For marriage, the process differs mainly because the spouse attempting to receive citizenship does not have to be Jewish. It starts with the Ministry of Internal Affairs verifying and investigating the nature of the couple’s relationship. Once the ministry is satisfied, the sponsored spouse receives a visitor’s visa, followed by a work permit, a temporary renewable residency, and at the end, Israeli permanent residency or Israeli citizenship. There is also a difference between a couple that wishes for immigration after marriage and one that does not.
You only have to undergo this procedure if the spouse trying to immigrate to Israel is not Jewish. If they are Jewish, they would have to go through the process of Aaliyah, and then a marriage ceremony could be done.
Currently, the procedure of citizenship through marriage is a gradual process that lasts around five to seven years to ensure the authenticity of the relationship. The length of time is intended to prevent any marriages that are based solely on the purpose of Israeli citizenship. Over the timespan, the Internal Ministry of Law will interview the couple annually to observe their lives as well as the “sincerity” of their relationship.
The Internal Ministry of Law also analyzes the potential immigrants’ “center of life,” which relates to one’s primary place of residence, employment, and plans of residence in the future. The primary aspect they look at is the amount of time the person is spending in Israel. Also, the perspective migrant must collect the following documents; Apartment lease or purchase agreement, bills related to living expenses, residence permit from the local council, membership in a Kupat Holim, payments to the National Insurance Institute, pay slips, Israeli bank account, a school certificate, and a children’s vaccination book (if applicable).
Weddings over Zoom:
Recently in the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic allowed weddings over the Zoom virtual platform in the state of Utah. This progressive idea deemed itself very convenient to Israeli citizens who wished to have a civil wedding performed because they would no longer have to leave the country to have a legitimate marriage physically. In 2022 the government ruled that all marriages be registered equally, even if performed over Zoom. The law office of Decker, Pex, Levi had a close relationship with this case, as one of their partners, Irena Rosenberg, helped out on the matter. She helped facilitate an Israeli couple in their marriage by being present on their Zoom calls and having correspondence with the officials in Utah.
In summary, citizenship can be granted to someone through marriage, but it is only sometimes obtained. There is a long process to prove a marriage is fictitious and certain relationships that the state does not recognize. Although these marriages cannot be performed in Israel, once someone is married in another country and return to Israel, their marriage must be recognized by the state just as any other marriage would be.
If you have any questions or concerns relating to the above topics, please contact our offices in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem for legal aid and advice.