Uncivil marriage

star-Guardian_150Giles Fraser has no boundaries

Perhaps Guardian columnist Giles Fraser was starry-eyed because of his marriage but that is no excuse not to do his homework. It was unnecessary and unprofessional to smear Israel over a system they didn’t even introduce. To add to the insult the ‘wedding’ was conducted under a chuppah and the groom is wearing a kippah.

Unfortunately (that could be fortunately) I don’t regularly read the Guardian so I missed this  before comments closed.

Think love knows no boundaries? Try getting married in Israel by Giles Fraser
The Guardian, Thursday 18 February 2016

Several points need to be made.

  1. Israel is NOT the only country with similar rules. Lebanon has virtually identical laws. The reason for this is that both countries apply the marriage law they received from Ottoman rule. The British/French who succeeded the Turks did not change it.
  2. This ‘millet’ system is still used at varying degrees in some post-Ottoman countries like Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, and Greece (for religious minorities). It is also in use in states like India, Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh which observe the principle of separate personal courts and/or laws for every recognized religious community and reserved seats in the parliament. Only Israel receives criticism.
  3. The laws, as implied in the article were neither introduced by the Jews nor aimed at them. They apply to ALL the religions recognised by the Ottoman at the time. Consequently there is only religious marriage in Israel. Thus a Druse can not marry a Christian.
  4. However Israel is extremely liberal in recognising marriages conducted outside its borders. Compare that with Australia where only marriages that could be performed within its borders are recognised. Israel, for example, recognises Gay marriage although there is no structure available to conduct one domestically
  5. The idea that planes to Cyprus are filled with couples trying to get married is blatant nonsense. It had validity 30 years ago when Cyprus was the closest and cheapest destination but with cheap air travel couples can marry anywhere in the world they wish.
  6. The picketing of a marriage between Jews and Arabs happened exactly ONCE. The marriage in question was technically not between a Jew and an Arab. Firstly because the Arabs are not a recognised millet minority – some are Christians. Secondly because as the bride had converted it was an allowed marriage between two Muslims.
  7. If anyone ‘suffers’ through the system it is the non-Orthodox Jewish and all but one Protestant sect ie the Anglicans.

Giles’s ‘Jewish’ wedding

Giles Fraser's wedding

The wedding of Giles and Lynn in Tel Aviv this week. ‘Those who came to the ceremony couldn’t have been more generous and welcoming, as I stamped on the glass and seven blessings were pronounced on us both.’

Dr Giles Fraser is priest-in-charge at St Mary’s Newington in south London and the former canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral!

For all of his smears about racist Jews, Giles Fraser made a point of having a Jewish wedding†. As we see from the photograph chosen to illustrate his piece he has his head covered with a white kippah and the marriage is conducted under a chuppah. He stamps on the glass although whether he said the traditional “If I forget Thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand fail… at the height of my joy” is not disclosed. It would be interesting if he did.

Seven blessings were said, another Jewish tradition. It would be interesting to hear what they were. He may have said it in Hebrew a language which to the best of my knowledge he doesn’t speak.  Some of the traditional ones refer directly to the Jews returning to Zion.

Bring intense joy and exultation through the ingathering of Her children (Jerusalem). Blessed are You, Adonai, are the One who gladdens Zion (Israel) through Her children’s return.

So why is a high church Anglican minister marrying in a Jewish ceremony? He makes a point of finding biblical examples – in the process humbly comparing himself with Moses, Abraham, Judah and Joseph. Many scholars take this to be a not-so-subtle up-yours to the theology of Ezra. I take this as a not-so-subtle up-yours to Judaism, two and a half thousand years after, even as he appropriates its symbols.

Extra credit


†  The photograph and the caption come from the Guardian article.

About David Guy

B.A./B.C.A. (Communication and Media Arts) University of Wollongong, AUSTRALIA M.A. in Government (Diplomacy and Conflict Studies) Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL Twitter @5MFI
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