Crossing the threshold: State, religion, and opposition to legally-imposed religious weddings

Ephraim Tabory, Sharon Shalev Levtzur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The intertwining of state and religion in Israel bestows substantial authority to the autonomous Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities. In that respect, citizens enjoy freedom of religion. But the relationship between state and religion also leads to the imposition of religious law on community members even if they are not personally religious. Among Jews, who comprise 80% of the population, this has led to friction between those who are religiously observant and those who are not, as the latter complain about the lack of freedom from religion. We study ten Jewish couples who make wedding plans that cross a threshold of protest over the religious status quo by choosing a non-government recognized alternative service rather than the mandatory state sanctioned Orthodox religious ceremony. Data from interviews with these persons and with five additional nonreligious couples who wed through the state rabbinate indicate that the conflict focuses mostly on the Orthodox rabbinical estab-lishmen, perceived as rigid and inflexible. Generally, nonreligious Israelis conform to social norms and conduct their wedding ceremonies in a traditional Jewish manner that is seen to be bound up with their identities as Israelis. Nonreligious Israelis who marry outside of the State Rabbinate reject the state Orthodox religious establishment more than they reject religion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-276
Number of pages16
JournalReview of Religious Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2009


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