Writer Yoram Kaniuk to be registered as ‘no religion’

Kaniuk explains that while he does not want to convert to another religion, he has never identified as a religious Jew.

Yoram Kaniuk_521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Yoram Kaniuk_521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
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 register.
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 religion.”
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 religion.
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 document.
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.
Katz-Mastbaum 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 Jewish.
“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.