The Chief Rabbinate Council on Tuesday discussed the marriage registration and wedding ceremonies conducted by Tzohar rabbis.
The meeting's participants decided to appoint a joint committee which would discuss the modern Orthodox organization's claims, but in the meantime many of Tzohar's rabbis will be prevented from marrying couples.
At the end of the heated debate, the rabbis agreed to boost the enforcement of existing regulations, which state that community rabbis are not authorized to recognize wedding ceremonies failing to meet the Rabbinate's criteria.
The Council members unanimously agreed that the disciplinary committee may take administrative measures against a rabbi allowing a Tzohar rabbi to conduct wedding ceremonies within his jurisdiction, and may even revoke his marriage registration license.
The enforcement of this issue does not appear in the meeting's protocol as a formal decision made by the Council, but a source who attended the meeting confirmed to Ynet that the Rabbinate plans to implement it soon.
This decision deals a heavy blow to Tzohar, as the organization's battle for additional marriage certificates may have succeeded – but now it is being attacked by the Rabbinate from a different direction.
So far, Rabbis David Stav of Shoham and Elyashiv Knohl of Gush Etzion approved each of Tzohar's rabbis, even those who failed to meet the Rabbinate's criteria. Now it appears they will no longer be able to do so, and the organization won't be able to perform the desired number of wedding ceremonies.
The meeting was run by the Council's chairman, Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger.
The rabbis and Religious Services Ministry workers voiced harsh claims against Tzohar and its handling of the affair. Most of their criticism was directed at the "aggressive campaign", in which the organization appeared to be lecturing the Rabbinate and "building itself on its back."
These statements were reflected in the Council's decision, which protested the "insults" against rabbis in Tzohar's public campaign and the "desecration of God' it caused, but stated that the Rabbinate would not be dragged into a public conflict so as not to worsen the situation.
Tzohar rabbis were not invited to take part in the discussion, although it was also attended by other rabbis responsible for the criteria for performing wedding ceremonies.
A Rabbinate source explained that "these rabbis are in the midst of a public struggle, and we feared they would clash with the Council members during the meeting."
Religious Services Minister Yakov Margi told the Council members about the chain of events. He said that several months ago he decided to "clean up" the marriage registration issue, and – at the request of Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar - began dealing with weddings held against regulations.
That was the reason, he said, that he informed Tzohar he would stop supplying the organization with marriage certificates.
During the meeting, Chief Rabbinate representatives clarified that they would not oppose the agreement reached with Tzohar – opening registration districts, should be done through a bill initiated by Knesset Member Otniel Schneller (Kadima).
The rabbis said they won't intervene in the interim solution either – supplying the organization with marriage certificates and turning a blind eye to the national registration – as this was a legal-procedural issue which was not their concern.
Addressing the agreement with Tzohar, Minister Margi teased movements cherishing the rule of law for not crying out and appealing to the High Court and state comptroller against his "illegal actions".
He criticized their "double standards", stating that they chose to stand by Tzohar due to its struggle against the haredim, while ignoring the problematic arrangement.
The Tzohar organization said in response, "We call on the Chief Rabbinate not to divert the discussion in honor of these rabbis or other, and to focus on increasing marriages according to Jewish Law.
"Surveys and studies have proved that the civil marriage option is growing among the secular public and is affected by the Lithuanian stream's influence on parts of the Chief Rabbinate and by the disqualification of all Religious Zionism rabbis.
"The organization appealed for the public's help after all hope was lost and many efforts which lasted for years, including an appeal to the chief rabbis, had failed.
"We hope the Chief Rabbinate Council listens to the call of the great sages of Israel, Rabbis Ariel, Drukman, Lichtenstein, Melamed and Rabinowitz – to maintain Tzohar's wedding initiative."