The judges discussed an appeal by a woman married in a civil marriage in Cyprus in 1987. The couple registered in the population registrar and held a private ceremony in Israel presided by a reform rabbi.
The man petitioned for divorce, but the woman argued that the rabbinical court could not dissolve the marriage since the couple was not married in accordance with Jewish law.
The woman claimed, “A civil marriage is considered inferior in the eyes of the court, and it would dissolve it without hesitation, even without just cause.” The man on the other hand petitioned the court for a declarative verdict that “the couple was not married in accordance with Jewish law”.
In here case, the woman pointed out that she was not prepared to divorce her husband, nor was she willing to live with him.
The District Rabbinical Court stood by the husband and ruled that anyone married in a civil ceremony with a conscious intent on not marrying in accordance with the Jewish Halacha is in fact not married in accordance with Jewish law and therefore doesn’t need a divorce.
The woman appealed the decision to the High Court of Justice and claimed that the District Court did not have the authority to rule that the two are free to marry, since the civil marriage was still valid.
The High Court of Justice ruled that it was the authority on dissolving Jewish marriages in Israel, either by divorce or by verdict.
The verdict written by former Justice Aharon Barak said, “The acknowledgment of civil marriages in Israel between Jews, citizens, or residents, provokes difficult questions. A situation where thousands of Jewish couples have civil marriages outside of Israel creates a reality that the Israeli legal system has to face.”
“The complimentary Rabbinical Court’s ruling and our own ruling, which reflect the existing law, could serve as a normative basis on which the Knesset can establish an appropriate solution to these civil marriages,” the verdict said.