In the Name of the Grandson

What would happen if hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of citizens really did rush to the Interior Ministry to register as without religion? Will we become a state without a religion instead of a Jewish state?

Since the news broke that writer Yoram Kaniuk won a court ruling allowing him to be registered at the Interior Ministry as "without religion," there has been a torrent of Internet comment, and Facebook pages have filled up with enthusiastic reactions ranging from "There is a God!" to "Tomorrow I'm rushing to the Interior Ministry to change my status."

Without meaning to do so, and even without a tent - is it possible that Kaniuk, one of Israel's leading authors, is about to create a new movement among the nation's citizens? On the face of it, Kaniuk simply wanted to be declared as having no religion just like his grandson, who, according to a rabbinical ruling, cannot be considered Jewish because his mother is not considered Jewish. Even though he did not intend for something else to happen, it has.

The reason the court ruling is reverberating the way it is among so many people has actually nothing to do with whether they are having problems registering their nationality, or with the connection they may or may not feel with Jewish tradition. It has nothing to do with whether we are fed up or not with being Jews, or whether we prefer kosher or non-kosher food.

In fact, among the prospective adherents to this new movement that has yet to be established there are certainly those with a deep connection to Jewish tradition and culture - such as Kaniuk himself, for example. And anyone who has read his books knows they are imbued with Jewish culture no less than they contribute to the richness and development of that culture.

Kaniuk grew up at the feet of the great Hebrew writer Haim Nahman Bialik in the first Hebrew city, Tel Aviv, when it was still really the White City. He didn't finish high school because he was drafted into the pre-state Palmach force, to fight the Arabs and to help bring immigrants to the Jewish state. His life is the Zionist dream, realized but then grounded to bits by those who see themselves as being responsible for the Jewish character of the state: politicians who invoke religion for the purposes of the government coalition and for the benefit of religious functionaries.

Even for those who don't identify with the sentiment conveyed in Kaniuk's books (from "Himmo, King of Jerusalem" to his exemplary "1948" ) that the War of Independence was basically one big mess, even among those Palmachniks who viewed it as heroic, and even among those who are far from being post-Zionist and understand the need and justice in the establishment of a Jewish state on the lands of another people - the question arises as to whether a bloodbath has indeed been carried out here over more than 60 years for the sake of such a Jewish state.

It's a fact: From the moment Kaniuk learned of the judge's ruling on the eve of Rosh Hashanah until the news was reported in the newspapers, several outstanding Jews (in their own opinion ), residents of the West Bank settlement of Anatot, managed to demonstrate how easily Judaism can be turned into a loaded pistol aimed at the goyim, when they went out, as is their custom, to enhance the joy of the holiday by engaging in a pogrom against Palestinians and the peace activists who came to their assistance. Even the police who were deployed to help the settlers, some them settlers themselves, exemplified that brutal sort of supremacy that allows for the definition of a certain nationality on their identity cards, in contrast to those for whom the word "Jew" does not appear in their own documents.

Even people who prefer to ignore war crimes committed in the name of the Jewish character of their state in the occupied territories have good reason to avoid being registered as Jews on their identity cards. First of all, because elimination of such a definition advances the fulfillment of the dream of separation of religion and state. Secondly, because in the hands of right-wing politicians, including those who are not suspected of excess religiosity, Judaism has become racism in the simplest sense of the word. Third, and most importantly, we must avoid such a distinction because of the alienation and revulsion that those who have appointed themselves as representatives of Judaism engender in us, and because of the financial blackmail and the religious coercion they exert on us.

And what would happen if hundreds of thousands, and maybe even millions, of citizens really did rush to the Interior Ministry to register as without religion? Will we become a state without a religion instead of a Jewish state? A secular state like those enlightened countries in which everyone, without regard for religion or nationality, is equal? The only real danger lurking in this initiative is the intolerable lines at the Interior Ministry.