Hundreds of Israeli evangelical couples have traveled out of the country in order to get married because the Jewish government does not officially recognize their faith. Church leaders are escalating efforts to change that.
The Council of Evangelical Churches in Israel (CECI), which includes 51 churches and organizations such as Campus Crusade and the Bible Society, formally requested in August 2011 that Israel recognize four denominations on behalf of nearly 5,000 followers. More than a year later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—who must approve the request—has yet to respond, says Michael Decker, chief counsel for the Jerusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ).
“Not being recognized leads to practical problems,” said Botrus Mansour, director of Nazareth Baptist School, regarding marriage, divorce, and education matters. “We hope a lawsuit will [help].”
Israel doesn’t have civil marriage as we know it, but recognises various religious bodies to perform marriages which then have acknowledgement by the state. Evangelicals, popular neither in Israel or here, have troubles getting their plethora of churches (maybe we need to discuss this problem first) recognised. (Perhaps if Barack Obama realised how Evangelicals are viewed by the Israeli government, US-Israel relations would improve). So Evangelical couples go abroad for a civil marriage.
IMHO, these churches are passing up an opportunity their American counterparts can’t get their head around either: marriage performed by a church but unrecognised by the state. Evangelical pastors love to trumpet their “scriptural authority” (I wonder if Israeli pastors are as triumphalistic as their American counterparts, somehow I doubt it) but they can’t seem to find it when it comes to really putting their seal on “what God joins together”. AFAIK, Israel doesn’t have laws against “unlawful conjugal relations” unlike the Muslim countries that surround it, and any Western-style country like Israel deals regularly with couples not joined in state-recognised marriage or civil union.
But I’m not holding my breath…