Artem Dolgopyat fulfilled a lifelong dream of winning a gold medal for Israel, but trading gold wedding bands in Israel seems like an impossible dream
The Ukraine-born Israeli gymnast was hailed as a national hero for winning Israel’s second gold medal – and its first in artistic gymnastics. But his mother lamented that the country’s authorities would not allow him to marry because he was not considered a Jew according to Orthodox law.
“The state doesn’t allow him to get married,” Dolgopayat’s mother Angela told 103FM in an interview on Sunday.
His comments touched a raw nerve in this country, which has repeatedly struggled over the balance of religion and state since it was founded as a refuge for Jews 73 years ago.
Under its “Law of Return,” anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent is eligible for Israeli citizenship. But while Dolgopyat’s father is Jewish, his mother is not. Under “Halacha,” or Jewish religious law, one must have a Jewish mother to be considered Jewish.
This discrepancy has resulted in thousands of people, many of them from the former Soviet Union, who live in the country and serve in its military, but who are blocked by Jewish customs such as weddings and funerals.
Israel does not have a system of civil marriage and Israeli law stipulates that Jewish marriages must be conducted by a rabbi authorized by the chief rabbi. Christian and Muslim couples should also marry within their religion.
Those who do not meet the orthodox standards set by the Rabbinate – including same-sex couples, interfaith couples, and Israelis not considered Jewish by the Halacha – cannot marry in Israel. Instead, they have to travel abroad to get married.
Efforts to legalize civil marriage have been repeatedly established because of opposition from politically powerful ultra-Orthodox parties.
Dolgopyat’s mother told the radio station that her son and his girlfriend had been living together for three years, but they could not marry. They need to go abroad, but they don’t let them go abroad because they always need to do sports.”
The Olympic champion, for his part, tried to play down the controversy. “These things are in my heart, it’s not right to talk about it right now,” he told reporters in Tokyo.
But the plagues of Dolgopyat’s marriage have dominated public discussion, with politicians and a raft of op-ed articles debating the issue of bringing civil marriage to Israel.
A 2019 survey by the Israel Democracy Institute found that nearly 60% of Israeli Jews support civil marriage.
“It is not that Dolgopyat deserves to be married in Israel because he has achieved a rare sporting achievement, but because he is a citizen of a democratic country,” Katya Kupchik, an activist for Israel Halfsheet, wrote on the Hebrew news site Ynet. Israel favors halfsheet civil marriage.
“They, like hundreds of thousands of others, must not obtain approval or disapproval from the chief rabbi in order to exercise a fundamental right.”
In contrast, Jesse Cohen wrote in the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Kicker Hashbat: “I do not want to live in a country that sets the standard for Judaism to win a sporting medal for conversion. He added that for a conversion “Torah and Gambling gambling needs to be accepted. commands. “
Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told a faction meeting of his Yesh Atid party on Monday that he would “fight by all means possible to have a civil marriage” so that Dolgopyat and others could marry in Israel.
Referring to the country’s national anthem, he said, “In my view it is unbearable that one can stand on the podium, listen to Hatikva, and receive a gold medal in the name of Israel, and then not get married here.” Is.” “This is a situation that cannot continue, and we will fight for change.”