An Un-Orthodox Israeli Wedding

This past Monday night, Tu B’Av Eve (the Israeli Valentine’s Day), a young couple’s public wedding ceremony was held in Tel Aviv’s Gan Ha’hashmal. Unlike other couples who were working painstakingly on their guest list, Inna and Pavel decided to invite all Tel Aviv residents to be guests at their wedding.


Inna Zyskind and Pavel Kogan have been living together for three years and raising their 8 months old daughter, Nea. He was born in Moscow, she in St. Petersburg. Previously Pavel worked  in high-tech and Inna was a journalist. Today they are developing together an online project – Hinamis.

The circumstances that led the couple to this public wedding are far from being joyous – Inna and Pavel are among approximately 300,000 Israelis who are the recipients of the insulting nickname Psuley Hitun (forbidden to marry). They cannot marry religiously, or legally, in Israel even though they pay taxes and serve in the IDF. According to Inna, “In Moscow, I could not advance my career as a journalist because of the glass ceiling for Jews. All my life I knew I was Jewish, until I came to Israel.”

Inna and Pavel are seven-eighths Jewish; all their grandparents are Jewish, except one grandmother, from the wrong side of the family. “The state offers me options to do a conversion, which is puzzling. Why would I do a conversion if I’m Jewish?” wonders Inna.

So Inna and Pavel’s marriage ceremony will not be recognized in the Jewish state, despite its traditional Jewish symbols and ties to current Jewish culture, the couple’s world view and Israeli secular way of life. In order to gain legal recognition and registration status as a married couple by the Ministry of the Interior, Inna and Pavel will need to travel out of Israel and marry in a lawful civil ceremony abroad.

The Tu B’Av Festival of Love, was held for the third year in Tel Aviv by Havaya – Secular Jewish life cycle ceremonies in Israel; Fishka – a young Russian speakers community in Israel; and with the support of Genesis Foundation (GPG), the New Israel Fund and the Posen Foundation.

images courtesy MupperPhoto