The Tel Aviv District Court published on Sunday a ruling made on Tuesday that
will allow writer Yoram Kaniuk to be recorded in the population register as
having “no religion.”
Kaniuk, who was born and raised in Tel Aviv, served
in the Palmach during the War of Independence and later became an
internationally acclaimed author and critic.
In 2010, Kaniuk petitioned
the Interior Ministry to change his status on the population register from
“Jewish” to “no religion.”
However, the Interior Ministry had denied
Kaniuk’s request and said in response that since he was registered as Jewish, a
public document was required to change his religious status on the population
Kaniuk therefore petitioned the district court, asking them to
overturn the ministry’s decision.
“I am now over 81 and not healthy, and
I would really like a decision to be made very soon about my request,” said
Kaniuk in his petition. “My request is very important to me.” Kaniuk explained
that while he did not want to convert to another religion, he has never
identified as a religious Jew.
In addition, following his marriage to a
Christian woman his grandson had been registered as having “no
In his ruling on Sunday, Judge Gideon Ginat cited a paper by
Prof. Shimon Sheetrit entitled ‘Freedom of Religion in Israel,’ which mentioned
several sources, including Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence, as well as
international resolutions that discussed the democratic right to freedom of
Although he accepted Kaniuk’s suit and ruled in favor of his
request, Ginat also noted the Interior Ministry had done its duty correctly by
refusing to change Kaniuk’s religious status without first receiving a public
Lawyer Yael Katz-Mastbaum, who represented Kaniuk in court,
told The Jerusalem Post
on Sunday the court’s ruling was consistent with the
spirit of the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom.
The right to define
oneself is a “fundamental right that should be taken for granted, without any
restrictions,” Katz-Mastbaum said, adding that the ruling could now have wider
implications including for civil marriage in Israel.
pointed to the civil union law, initiated by Israel Beiteinu, according to which
two Israelis who are defined by the state as lacking religious denomination are
permitted to marry in a civil ceremony.
Currently, the civil union law
applies only to Israelis who are deemed to have never been
“Perhaps two people, one of whom was Jewish but who has changed
to ‘no religion’ [in the population registry] would be able to marry his
partner,” she said.