The United Christian Council in Israel, composed of eighteen Protestant denominations, is weighing the pros and cons of a landmark proposal, one that would ask the government for official community status.
Although Protestants have served in Palestine for more than 100 years under three different governments (those of Turkey, Britain, and Israel), none have ever been given recognition as a community. During Turkish and British rule Protestants functioned as registered societies and enjoyed almost the same rights and privileges as other recognized communities (e.g. Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Marionite, Jewish, and Muslim). In 1953, however, following the establishment of the state of Israel, the Rabbinical Courts Jurisdiction Law was enacted giving exclusive jurisdiction over personal status affairs to the ecclesiastical courts of the recognized communities. While this law resulted in the strengthening of the authority of the ancient millet (religious community) system, it created serious civil disabilities for non-recognized denominations and left Protestants and others virtually without benefit of marital laws.
It is difficult, for example, for a Protestant to get married in Israel and impossible for him to get a divorce. The problem also extends into matters of inheritance and succession in the event of a contest and litigation. No civil court is able to decide matters pertaining to laws that concern family life.
Failure of the government to make adequate provisions for the rights of Protestant and other non-recognized bodies has become a matter of growing concern for the United Christian Council. But not all members agree on the community plan as a way out. Some object even to an organizational ...1
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