Monday, August 4, 2008

Ketubot, Rabbi's and Shnekel's (and Pizza)

Well today I had the privilege of getting my first experience with the Rabbanut. I had some friends who got married last month in America, but the Rabbaut did not recognize their Ketuba, so they had to go in front of these Rabbi’s to “prove” that they were married. To do that they had to have two “aidem” (witnesses) to the fact that they were married, so my friend and I went to the Rabbanut building in central Jerusalem this morning.
An interesting fact, the Rabbanut building is the same building that used to house the Knesset. It’s right off of King George street.
I had been waiting for my first experience with some kind of hellish Israeli bureaucracy, and luckily my first experience was not directed at me.
My friend and I actually arrived before our friend and his wife, we hadn’t seen each other for a while so we had a good chance to schmooze. When they finally did arrive they started the process of whatever it was that they do behind that door.
Now the door was very interesting. Pretty much at all times the door remains locked, and you are not able to knock on it because there is a sheet of cloth that hangs suspended between the actual door and the hallway where they make us all wait for them.
The first thing they did was confiscate our Tudat Zehut’s, I’m not sure exactly why they did that. They then took the couple into the room by themselves to question them. I later found out that they wanted to make sure that our answers matched whatever they had said.
My friend and I each went in separately, my friend went first. I was wondering what kind of questions they would ask me. I assumed it would do something related to the wedding , “was the Ketuba written the correct way?” “Who was the Rabbi who wrote it…” etc.
But to my surprise, when it was actually my turn to be interrogated, they were asking me questions relating to the religious level of the my friend.
“Does he drive on Shabbat?”
“How sure are you of that?”
“How long have you known him?”
Then the actual questions of sustenance.
“You were at this supposed wedding?”
“What was the name of the Rabbi who signed the Ketuba?”
That last one I answered “Rabbi Goldberger,” and for good measure (as all of them were very Charadi looking) “and he wears a very big Striemel.” They seemed very impressed by that.
Of course the problem came when they stared asking me questions about my friends wife, and more specifically when they asked if I knew here parents. I didn’t and the pretty much told us that she was not Jewish, because we had not proof that she was Jewish, therefore they could not give them an Israeli marriage license.
Let’s just say the emotional situation in the room starting moving VERY quickly.
So we went out wondering what we were going to do when the couple remembered that she has a relative who lives in Geula (the place-not the time) who knew her and her parents. They were able to contact him, and he showed up about a half an hour later, dressed in his kaputa and hat, and looking very Chareidi.
Let’s just say that the next step went very quickly and they were accepted as a married couple. (I think there was some Yiddish involved).
When the Rabbi came out to tell them what their decision had been, there was a big sigh of relief (he’s in the army and it’s not that easy for him to get out). The Rabbi told them the good news and their instructions for getting the documentation that they needed.
As he turned to leave he turned around, smiled, and said to the two fo them “Mazel Tov.”
The last step was they actually had to go downstairs and pick up the physical document. While we were waiting for them, my friend (the single one) went to get a soda and asked if the machine too a “Shnekel.”
“What’s a ‘Shnekel?” I asked.
That was apparently his term for the new 2 shekel coin. I wonder why the name never caught on…
From there all four of hung out for a few hours. This was really the first chance that I had to hang out with friends since getting here.
We had lunch on Ben Yehuda (pizza) and then I went with them to Misrad Hapanim so that she could (finally) get her last name to be same as her husbands.
From there we parted ways and I went to pick up some things I needed. But I must say all in all, it was a very interesting day…

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