November 30, 2022

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Israel’s Olympic gold victory raises Jewish identification debate

JERUSALEM – Artem Dolgopyat fulfilled a lifelong desire when he received a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. But back house in Israel, his hopes of investing gold wedding day bands with his longtime girlfriend look to be an unachievable dream.

The Ukrainian-born Israeli gymnast was hailed as a countrywide hero for winning Israel’s 2nd-ever gold medal — and its initial in inventive gymnastics. But the celebrations have been tempered following his mom lamented that the country’s authorities will not allow for him to wed simply because he is not viewed as Jewish according to Orthodox law.

“The condition does not let him to marry,” Dolgopyat’s mom, Angela, informed 103FM in an interview Sunday.

Her reviews touched a raw nerve in this place, which has repeatedly struggled with balancing matters of religion and condition due to the fact it was started as a refuge for Jews 73 yrs back.

Under its “Law of Return,” any individual with at minimum just one Jewish grandparent is suitable for Israeli citizenship. But whilst Dolgopyat’s father is Jewish, his mother is not. Under “halacha,” or Jewish religious legislation, a single ought to have a Jewish mom to be thought of Jewish.


This discrepancy has resulted in tens of thousands of people today, quite a few of them from the former Soviet Union, who stay in the nation and serve in its military but who are blocked from Jewish rituals this sort of as weddings and funerals.

Israel does not have a program of civil marriage and Israeli law mandates that Jewish marriages ought to be performed by a rabbi approved by the Chief Rabbinate. Christian and Muslim couples ought to also get married in their religion.

Individuals who do not meet up with the Orthodox specifications set by the rabbinate — which includes similar-sexual intercourse partners, interfaith couples, and Israelis not thought of Jewish by halacha — are not able to get married in Israel. Instead, they will have to vacation overseas to marry.

Tries to legalize civil marriage have frequently foundered because of to opposition by politically powerful extremely-Orthodox get-togethers.

Dolgopyat’s mother advised the radio station that her son and his girlfriend have lived jointly for 3 decades, “but they simply cannot marry. They need to go overseas, but they never enable him go overseas for the reason that he always desires to do sports.”


The Olympic champion, for his aspect, tried using to downplay the controversy. “These are points I have in my heart, it is not right to speak about this now,” he advised reporters in Tokyo.

But Dolgopyat’s wedding woes have dominated community discourse, with politicians and a raft of op-ed content debating the difficulty of bringing civil relationship to Israel.

A 2019 survey by the Israel Democracy Institute found that almost 60{7e180e233e01aa8c38055bc91ceacc98196af3ac6f20dbae633f8361c9e41c15} of Israeli Jews help civil marriage.

“It’s not that Dolgopyat is entitled to marry in Israel mainly because of the scarce sporting activities accomplishment he built, instead simply because he is a citizen in a democratic state,” Katya Kupchik, an activist with Israel Hofsheet wrote on the Hebrew news web-site Ynet. Israel Hofsheet advocates for civil marriages.

“He, like hundreds of hundreds of some others, should not have to get approvals or rejections from the Chief Rabbinate in purchase to physical exercise a standard appropriate.”

Conversely, Yishai Cohen wrote in the extremely-Orthodox newspaper Kikar Hashabbat: “I wouldn’t want to live in a state that helps make successful a sporting medal the standard for conversion” to Judaism. He said a conversion needs accepting “the yoke of Torah and the commandments.”


Yair Lapid, Israel’s international minister, mentioned Monday at a faction meeting of his Yesh Atid social gathering that he “will fight in every single way feasible so that there will be civil marriage” in purchase for Dolgopyat and some others to marry in Israel.

“It’s insufferable in my eyes that anyone can stand on the podium, hear Hatikva, and get a gold medal in the identify of Israel, and then not be capable to wed in this article,” he reported, referring to the country’s nationwide anthem. “It’s a condition that cannot proceed, and we will battle for adjust.”

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