Omri, the infant grandson of Miranda and Yoram Kaniuk, is "areligious." His grandmother is a Christian, and her daughter, Naomi, therefore, is also not a member of the select club of those who belong to the Jewish faith. The Population Registry hastily recognized Omri as a "Christian." Following a demand from the family, his status was amended to "no religion."
Last week, the Tel Aviv District Court upheld a request from Omri's grandfather to also be registered with the same status. Under the "Nationality" clause at the Population Registry, and in his ID document, too, author Yoram Kaniuk remains a Jew.
The decision by Judge Gideon Ginat is refreshing news for those fighting for a separation between religion and state and working toward achieving a distinction between readily confused concepts - Judaism, Israelism, Hebraism; nationality, nation, religion.
The decision recognizes the right of a citizen to choose not to belong to any religion. It also embodies a more fundamental significance that leaves religiously observant Jews to deal with the age-old question of "Who is a Jew?" and promotes the debate on "What is a Jew?" - not those who the rabbis determine as one, but those for whom being a Jew is their nationality.
Yoram Kaniuk was born in Tel Aviv before the establishment of the Jewish State, and he fought and was injured in its war for survival in 1948. He is one of Israel's most significant authors and one of the last of the generation whose works have accompanied the state through its youth and adulthood, its joys and agonies. He does not need a rabbinical stamp of approval to be recognized as an Israeli - and for his nationality to be recognized as Jewish - through and through.
Religiously observant individuals would rise up in anger if a secular person tried to force his interpretation of identity onto them. Secular individuals, too, should not have to suffer the authority and intimidation of the religious.
Shas' persistent efforts to maintain control of the Interior Ministry cannot be allowed to blur the simple fact: Israel is the state of the Israelis, of those without religion just as much as the religious. The Law of Return allows the state to grant Israeli citizenship to any Jew who comes here - even though it is doubtful that Omri, Yoram Kaniuk's grandson, would have met this criterion had he been born abroad.
Israel must free itself of the grasp of the priests and paper-pushers of religion. The Kaniuk precedent is an important step in the direction of this objective.
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