The Chief Rabbinate's council called a meeting Thursday to discuss the rising debate on civil marriage, amplified by the recent coalition negotiations.
Following the meeting, Chief Rabbis of Israel Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar have decided to meet with the various faction heads in the Knesset next week, including those of the secular parties, in an attempt to broker an acceptable compromise on the highly charged subject.
All matters pertaining to matrimony in Israel are handled by the religious establishment, and the practice of civil marriage is not sanctioned by the State.
The only halachic solution currently considered acceptable by the religious establishment is the one suggested by Rabbi Amar, namely to allow only non-Jews living in Israel to wed in a civil ceremony.
The proposal has been sanctioned by Shas' spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, but nevertheless, the Chief Rabbinate has yet to declare its official stand on the matter.
Thursday's meeting was a first in the Chief Rabbinate's history, since it has never before even considered allowing any form of civil marriage in Israel.
Rabbi Metzger, who also serves as chairman of the Rabbinate's council, was recently quoted as saying that "there are all kinds of notions on the matter. The greatest sages of Israel are debating the issue… but nothing has been decided yet."
Any decision made, he added, would exclude mixed-marriages, since "they (Yisrael Beiteinu) demand the marriage of a Jew and a gentile be sanctioned, but no rabbi will ever allow such mixed marriages.
"We will do all that we can to keep the sanctity of (the Jewish nature of) Israel and if we were – heaven forbid – to go against the Halacha or against the great sages – we may end up dividing the people."
Former Chief Sephardi Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi Doron, however, holds the minority view saying civil marriages in Israel should simply be allowed.
Rabbi Bakshi Doron surprised the ultra-Orthodox community several years back, when he published as essay condoning civil marriages.
Forcing the entire population to wed in a religious ceremony alone proved an impediment to many none-observing couples, he said, thus contributing to the birth of children out of wedlock – and more grievously – to the possible breaching of the various injunctions pertaining to married women in the scripture.
Furthermore, he claimed that the pressure exerted over mixed couples to convert resulted in many ill-preformed conversions, done for the sake of the ceremony alone. Rabbi Bakshi Doron maintains his position today, as well.