by Rabbi Alissa Wise
As a rabbi, I have a complicated relationship to marriage.
On the one hand, I believe in the transformative power of ritual and want to facilitate meaning-making and connection whenever we are able to have it. We live in an uncertain world where opportunities for celebration should not be passed by, and certainly people making bold commitments and affirmations of love are one of those opportunities.
On the other hand, as a spiritual leader, I can not stay silent when I see the harm marriage has long caused in our culture. A coveted status here in the US, marriage reinforces systems of privilege and oppression in our culture, dividing us in harmful ways, whether through ill-advised immigration laws, through cutting people off from their support networks in hospitals, by making non-romantic love and connection invisible, or by distracting the LGBTQ community to see marriage as the ultimate goal for gender and sexual liberation.
But even these divisions aren’t quite as stark as those in Israel – in particular for Palestinians who marry Israelis. This past Wednesday, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld a ban on Palestinians living with Israeli spouses.
That’s right–they affirmed an existing law that forbids Palestinians without Israeli citizenship to live in Israel with their spouses who have Israeli citizenship.
While here in the US, marriage is tied to privilege, in Israel marriage means separation. If you are the Israeli spouse, it means leaving your home – and most likely your friends and family – to live with your partner. While the six Supreme Court judges who voted to uphold the law recognized the existence of couples’ constitutional right to live together, they added that “this does not necessarily require that they make their home in Israel.” The marital status discrimination being faced by a segment of Israelis, is based on ethnicity and citizenship.
Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, who mounted the legal challenge to the Israeli Supreme Court, issued the following statement yesterday:
The High Court of Justice today approved a law the likes of which does not exist in any democratic state in the world, depriving citizens from maintaining a family life in Israel only on the basis of the ethnic affiliation of the male or female spouse. The ruling proves how much the situation regarding the civil rights of the Arab minority in Israel is declining into a highly dangerous and unprecedented situation.
The sixth blessing of the seven wedding blessings recited under the huppah at most Jewish weddings reads: “May there soon be heard in the streets of Jerusalem, lovers and beloveds shouting in celebration”.
Yes, may this be so – for all who live there and for all who wish to make their home there.