Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Marriage: Going to the Rabbanut

Will we get the stamp of approval!?

Don't take my word for it, but going to the rabbanut -- which Wikipedia says is recognized by Israeli law as "the supreme halachic and spiritual authority for the Jewish people in Israel" -- to open a tik (file) for marriage wasn't tough.

And I'm a divorced convert.

A lot of people complain about the politics, the rabbanut, the religious domination in this country and how difficult it is to do anything within the confines of halachah like get married, but so far? I'm not feeling oppressed or angry or upset or anything. In fact, going to the rabbanut was less annoying/stressful than going to the DMV in the United States.

Mr. T and I headed to the rabbanut on probably three different occasions, constantly getting the hours wrong. You see, in Israel a lot of the government offices close down in the middle of the day for lunch and then reopen for like ... an hour and a half. We finally managed to get into the office with all of our necessary paperwork -- get (religious divorce decrees for each of us), my conversion paperwork and name change paperwork, and our teudot zehut (Israeli ID cards). I also brought along a bunch of other paperwork because I honestly was anticipating some kind of insane experience of putting me through the wringer.

Silly Chavi, you were paranoid for no reason! They gave you candy for the love of Pete!

The rabbanut offices are under massive construction, so we had to ask around where to go. We ended up at an awkward desk with a man and woman sitting behind it. They got Mr. T's information and had a problem with what he'd brought to show that he was divorced and then proceeded to realize that I was a convert and then we had to go see the Big Cheese down the hallway. We sat down in a large office, the walls lined with pictures of famous rabbis, while the Big Cheese (you don't need to know his name, just know that he was incredibly friendly, sweet, and got us moving) looked over our paperwork. He asked several questions and made some copies, told me that I needed to have two legit Jews email him letters saying that I was, in fact, Jewish and awesomely amazing, and then he sent us back down the hall to wait to get registered.

We sat down at a desk after a few minutes with a nice woman who input our information (names, addresses, wedding date, etc.) into the computer. We paid a fee (which was discounted thanks to me being a new immigrant) and were told to go out to speak to another person.

Person number three looked like a rabbi, so we'll call him the Yiddishe French Rabbi, because he used a lot of interesting yiddish for a man who spoke French so well. At this desk (the wall where a door once was gutted out to a large hallway), we were asked questions about whether we were related, our family, how many siblings we have and whether our parents are still married and where they live, what we want our names to be after the marriage, and a series of repeated questions about our marital statuses and the names of those we've been married to before.

By the time the Yiddishe French Rabbi finished with us, the offices were technically already closed, but if there's one thing that Israel does right, it's that if you're there, everyone who is pertinent to what you're there for has to stick around until you're done and gone.

The next stop was to a woman to make sure I knew I needed to take kallah classes (where you learn about family purity and the laws of niddah and such), which simply required the signing of a form, some stuff being shoved in my hand, and being sent on my merry way back to the Yiddishe French Rabbi, who took the paper I signed and put it in our file, wished us a Mazal Tov, and we were gone!

Zip, done. I think the entire ordeal took about 2.5 hours, which seems like a long time, but with the company I had it was a breeze of a situation. I didn't feel like I was being put out, questioned, or oppressed in any way. The only other step left is that Mr. T and I each have to have two Jewish men go into the rabbanut to verify that we're both single and able to marry. Luckily, I had two early takers and we're good to go.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- like my aliyah process, everything has gone so very smoothly. Between meeting Mr. T and dealing with the rabbanut, I feel like I'm being led through life with a real purpose at last.  With the wedding coming up next month, there's so much to think about. Luckily, most of the thinking involves needing things like bookcases for the apartment and some proper furniture and things and stuff like that. I suppose maybe I should have paid for the lift to bring all of my stuff over, eh? I didn't know I'd be making a home so quickly!

So the next time you worry that Israeli living will be too hard for you, that things will just be too difficult and too much to handle, remember that often what we hear are the horror stories. Those are the easier stories to tell, after all. When things to smoothly, it's not as interesting -- it doesn't make a good headline, right?

Well, that's what I'm here for. To remind you that things can go smoothly.