“Havaya – Israeli Ceremonies” is the largest non-profit organization in Israel that arranges secular Jewish life cycle ceremonies in the spirit of freedom" Ofer Cornfeld chaiman of Havaya
“Havaya – Israeli Ceremonies” is the largest non-profit organization in Israel that arranges secular Jewish life cycle ceremonies in the spirit of freedom. Havaya’s main purpose is to generate a widespread societal norm in which Israelis who seek to marry will choose a ceremony that expresses their own personal values.
People have been using ceremonies to mark their important events ever since humanity came into being tens of thousands of years ago. As a part of their very essence, ceremonies are carried out by society; in their very nature they are meant to express the main values of the individuals who take part in them and of the culture in which they live. But at the same time, ceremonies also create and strengthen these same values.
There is an extremely moving and exciting cultural process that is occurring all around us in our modern and free Israel; the process of connecting the culture and tradition of the Jewish people to the 21st century. This process is so pervasive and wide in its scope as to be almost transparent, making it difficult for us to grasp all of its different aspects.
Sivan and Shay's wedding, Conducted by Ram Efrat - Havaya. Photography: Siraz Greenbaum
This same process gave birth to the Modern Hebrew language with all its many facets. This is the same movement that shaped new Israeli literature, its songs and plays, and also the fine arts. And I’ll go further as to say that without this wide cultural change, the State of Israel and its entire infrastructure – government, legal system, army and parliament, wouldn’t have been able to exist.
Havaya’s activities are an integral part of this movement. Our task is to enable couples who wish to marry in Israel to have a ceremony that expresses their own values. The leaders who officiate at Havaya ceremonies help couples design a ceremonial space that suits them, never swerving from the core understanding that couples are masters over their own lives.
A ceremony that is fully designed by the individuals who are participating in it, expresses, by its very nature, the freedom the participants enjoy to decide upon its contents.
Havaya’s marriage ceremonies are in their nature egalitarian. They are based on the tenet that all people, both men and women, have equal human value and equal rights to freedom, security and the pursuit of happiness. The ceremonial space that is created in Havaya is pluralistic and many faceted. This wide human cultural variety puts the person at the center, while also remaining connected to the different circles in the lives of the couple getting married: the family, the guests, the place and the time.
We at Havaya know that ceremony is egalitarian, sovereign, pluralist and humanist; it not only expresses the culture of free Israel but it also designs that very culture. At Havaya, we design and create ceremonies for all the life cycle events a person may need from birth to end of life. We undertake Brit and Brita ceremonies when a child is born, devise coming of age ceremonies of bar and bat mitzvah, undertake marriage ceremonies when a couple wishes to make their relationship official and officiate at funerals and memorial services.
Presently, the legal situation in Israel regarding life cycle ceremonies is awful. Today, the right to officiate at ceremonies has been handed solely to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, a corrupt, monopolistic and fossilized institution. The Rabbinate maintains an unacceptable value system in which ceremony participants have no control over what will take place, in which women are absolutely silenced and not present in the ceremonial space. Ceremonies like these strengthen culture that is opposed to pluralism and change; taking part in these ceremonies strengthens the Rabbinic institution and its values.
The movement of Havaya creates a different normative reality. A better one.
These last years have been years of growth at Havaya, mostly because there has been a growing demand for ceremonies in the Havaya spirit and we need to grow with this demand. The new connection between Havaya and Israel Bfree anchors the activities we have undertaken regarding the space of ceremony within the wider spectrum of cultural change activity and is therefore more appropriate. The struggle for the character of the State of Israel is taking place in many arenas. Public opinion is changing the way they view cultural norms and this is being expressed through art, culture and media and eventually through changes in the law and in court judgments. The public space is still being created and the connection of Havaya and Israel Bfree gives us the proper tool to operate.
Dr Ofer Kornfeld, Chairman of Havaya – Israeli Ceremonies