Israel Detains Conservative Rabbi for Performing non-Orthodox Weddings

Israeli police detained on Thursday a Conservative rabbi who presided over non-Orthodox weddings.

Rabbi Dov Haiyun of Moriah Congregation in Haifa was ordained by the Conservative movement, which is not recognized by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. He was detained following a complaint filed against him by the Rabbinical Court in Haifa.

This is the first time police is enforcing a 2013 law forbidding performing weddings outside the Rabbinate, a law carrying a sentence of up to two years in prison.

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Haiyun was taken to a police station and released after signing a document promising to report for questioning on Monday.

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Haiyun siad he was awoken by policemen knocking on his door without warning at 5:30 A.M. "Unfortunately, the nice young policemen serve as tools for the ayatollahs in Israel," he said. He signed a statement promising to return on Monday, he said. 

While at the police station, Haiyun wrote a Facebook post declaring that "Iran is already here!!!" and urging people to share the post.

Police said Haiyun had been asked to come in for questioning on Wednesday and failed to do so, prompting investigators to go to his home. 

"If they arrest me, they need to arrest everyone who conducts non-Orthodox weddings, including MK Yair Lapid and [media personality] Avri Gilad," Haiyun said, adding that he performs wedding in compliance with Jewish law. "There is no deception here and everyone who comes to me knows about it."

The complaint against Haiyun that prompted police involvement was apparently a wedding he conducted two years ago for a woman whom the Rabbinate ruled was ineligible for marriage according to Jewish law.  

Yizhar Hess, executive director of the Conservative movement in Israel, slammed the police action as "an outrage that shows how drunk with power the Rabbinical Court is."

The Reform Movement in Israel demanded that the attorney general put a stop to the "disgraceful" investigation. 

The investigation is another sign of the belligerence  displayed by the Israeli Rabbinate – backed by elements in government – toward Conservative and Reform Judaism, the Reform movement said. It added that this aggressive behavior will not deter it: ultimately it will lead the Orthodox monopoly to collapse, the Reform movement said.

Haiyun’s lawyer, Rabbi Uri Regev — who heads the movement for religious freedom and equality Hiddush — said he planned to vigorously protest to the attorney general and the police the fact that law enforcement has been placed at the disposal of the Rabbinate in its struggle against religious freedom and freedom of conscience in Israel.

Uri Keidar, executive director of Israel Hofsheet ("Be Free Israel"), said: "Every year tens of thousands of Israelis marry outside the Rabbinate, voting no-confidence in this corrupt institution, which only exists by virtue of cowardly politicians afraid to show leadership, and enable civil marriage in Israel," Keidar said. "The only option is to immediately create a civil marriage law. We have no more time for bypasses. A bill to enable civil marriage will be presented to the Knesset at the very start of the winter session. We will see who supports Israelis and who supports the Rabbinate."

Founded in 1954, Moriah Congregation is the oldest Conservative synagogue in Israel and describes itself as a halakhic, egalitarian place of worship.