Israeli Author Yoram Kaniuk Asks Court to Cancel His 'Jewish' Status

Earlier request to Interior Ministry was turned down, with Kaniuk explaining in his petition that he does not wish to be part of a 'Jewish Iran.'

Mazal Mualem
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Mazal Mualem

The author Yoram Kaniuk is expected to ask the Tel Aviv District Court this morning to order the Interior Ministry to permit him to "leave the Jewish religion" by altering his entry under the heading "religion" in the Population Registry. Kaniuk wants any official state document on which he appears as "Jewish" to be changed to "Without Religion."

An earlier request to the Interior Ministry was turned down and Kaniuk explains in his petition that he does not wish to be part of a "Jewish Iran" or belong to "what is today called the religion of Israel."

Yoram Kaniuk (right) receiving an award from TA University, May 14, 2011. Credit: Moti Milrod

Kaniuk, 81, would like to equate his standing to that of his 10-month-old grandchild, who is registered as "Without Religion" at the Population Registry.

The unusual request by Kaniuk, one of the more important and prolific authors of the War of Independence generation, from the court, so close to the date commemorating Israel's independence, reflects his continued revulsion at the way the Jewish religion has lately rebelled against the values of the Declaration of Independence. This feeling has intensified recently as he became a grandfather and learned that his grandchild is defined in the Population Registry as an "American Christian." The child's mother, Kaniuk's daughter, who was born in Israel and served in the IDF is also defined this way because of the fact that her mother, Kaniuk's wife Miranda, is American and a Christian.

Following an exchange with officials at the Population Registry, authorization was given to change the way his grandchild is defined to "Without Religion," and subsequently Kaniuk asked to equate his status with that of his grandchild. When he was turned down, the author turned to the courts.

This past year has been one of the best for Kaniuk, with the birth of his first grandchild and winning the prestigious Sapir Prize two months ago for his book 1948, a memoir of his experience in the War of Independence, when he was injured. Yesterday he received an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University for his literary contribution in which he encapsulated the Israeli and Jewish experience.

In his petition to the court, filed by attorney Yael Katz-Mastbaum, Kaniuk explains that he is asking to be part of the Jewish or Israeli nation, but since in Israel there is no definition of nationality beside that based on religion, he is demanding the status of "Without Religion," like his grandchild.

He explains that he was never religious and never kept the religious obligations, and even though he was born to a Jewish mother he is asking not to be registered as a Jew. The petition states that "the plaintiff would prefer to be registered as an Israeli under the 'nationality' heading, but this is still not possible since the plaintiff cannot present a document showing change of religion since he is not changing his religion."

Kaniuk told Haaretz yesterday that "the son of my daughter, who was born in Israel and served in the army, is my grandchild, and I was born and lived in Israel and my mother Sarah came here in 1910. Because my wife Miranda is not Jewish my two daughters and grandchild, who were born here, are a non-Jewish minority in my house. I am so terrified by these gentiles that I want to be exactly what they are, to only be part of the Jewish nation. Because the State of Israel does not recognize the Jewish nationality they suggested at the Interior Ministry that I convert to Christianity or Islam, but to be a member of the Jewish nation without the religion is impossible. If that is so, I want to be without religion so that at the age of 81 I can share this classification with my grandchild."