The Lobby for Jewish Values and Director of Jerusalem-based Kol HaNa'ar Rabbi Asher Idan has presented a new initiative to lower the marriage age allowed by law.
In the past few days, Chairman of the Lobby for Jewish Values Ofer Cohen has approached several members of Knesset from religious factions in order to garner support for the new bill.
Currently the age of marriage allowed by law is 17, and according to the initiators of the bill, lowering it by even one year would pose a significant difference.
"There are many Hasidic communities that are interested in lowering the marriageable age, namely Vizhnitz and Breslov," explained Rabbi Idan.
"Some Hasidic communities are already violating the law by marrying at the age of 15-16. Parents of large families who cannot financially support all their children would be able to marry off their daughter earlier so that she can move into her husband's house," he added.
"Girls who do not want to study or work are a burden to the household," Rabbi Idan noted, "In my opinion, these young people will contribute more to the State because they won't go to nightclubs or waste their time looking for nonsense someplace else."
Rabbi Idan said that lawyers are currently examining the legislative aspect of the bill, "We will curtail rape cases and violation of the law by allowing marriage a year earlier.
"This one year is significant. Nowadays boys and girls cannot have relations, and we will allow this by letting them marry, while encouraging and guiding them," he said.
The Kol HaNa'ar director is a colorful and renowned figure among the ultra-Orthodox community. Last February, he lashed out against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after
the latter stayed at a Tiberius hotel that did not have a kosher certificate.
In the past, Idan also bickered with the mayor of Tiberius after the municipality accused him of trying to disrupt the status quo between religious and secular residents by promoting an initiative to separate between males and females on city bus lines and place Shabbat sirens on the boardwalk.
The purpose of changing the marriage age, according to a haredi source, is "to change the haredi view that has been prevailing in recent years, according to which girls must acquire an occupation before getting married. This approach is mainly held by interested persons such as directors of seminaries and different school who want as many girls to join their institution.
"The haredi press is also guilty," the source added, "Because it promotes an agenda that says women must be educated. This is very unfortunate and is promoted not by rabbis, but by businessmen that control the education apparatus."
According to the source, in recent years the haredi public has been aligning itself with the secular one, in an effort to encourage haredi girls to study more and develop their careers.
"This creates terrible competitiveness. Peer pressure leads every girl to jump on the trend and study the most sought-after occupation at the most respected institution. This competitiveness creates crisis and tension, and estranges them from the values of the family and the home," noted the source.
"Let us restore things to the way they were and stop trying to upgrade the haredi doctrine," added the source, "The key is to give them an opportunity to marry early and this way save them from the pressure and the feeling that they must pursue an academic track, because many are not interested in studies."
"At the moment we are feeling the pulse, and it seems that certain members of Knesset are showing interest. Some will be willing to take up the gauntlet," claimed Cohen.
"Sexual intercourse is forbidden until the age of 16, but after the age of 16 it is allowed if it is consensual, and we want it to be conducted in the framework of marriage. As soon as there is consent of the boys and the families, we don’t want to have any limitation," he added.
Rabbi Idan does not think that the age of marriage he is proposing is too young: "The Talmud says that you can get married at the age of 14. The Baba Sali married at the age of 13 and the Shulchan Aruch states that you conduct the Bar Mitzva ceremony and get married on the same day – You say Mazal Tov and bring out the bride.
"The woman is not the reason, she is the emotions. A woman isn’t reasonable; she is emotional and the man possesses the reason. They are two opposites that the creator of the universe brings together," he noted.
Idan is certain the bill will be passed by the Knesset: "No one will oppose the halacha. The Knesset has witnessed the recent wave of crimes and sexual offenses in both secular and religious families with many children, and this will solve our problems."
MK Nissim Zeev (Shas)
does not see a reason to change the age of marriage. "Even if the bill is passed, it will not change things significantly and I don’t see women rushing to get married earlier. I also don’t think parents are going to want their daughters to Marry so young, except for special circumstances," he said, adding "furthermore, I believe that studies help strengthen the family."