Following Court Ruling, Hundreds of Israelis to Declare Themselves 'Without Religion'

Participants to meet Sunday evening to sign affidavits informing the Interior Ministry of their change of status to 'without religion.'

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

Hundreds of people are expected to gather tonight on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard to declare themselves "without religion." The move follows the recent District Court ruling granting author Yoram Kaniuk recognition as "without religion" by the Interior Ministry.

The meeting, to be held in the abandoned building on Rothschild Boulevard which has become an ad-hoc community center for protesters, is being organized on Facebook by Tel Aviv poet Oded Carmeli. So far, about 600 people have confirmed they will be attending.

Author Yoram Kaniuk in 2009. Credit: Daniel Tchetchik

Participants will be signing affidavits in the presence of attorneys, informing the Interior Ministry of their change of status to "without religion."

Carmeli, Kaniuk and Mickey Gitzin, head of Be Free Israel, a movement advocating freedom from religion, will then address the group.

The event is a direct outcome of this summer's social protest movement, Carmeli said Saturday. "I realized that anyone can create a Facebook page and change something," he said.

"Personally, I have always been an atheist. I belong to the Jewish nation; I have never belonged to the Jewish religion," he added.

Carmeli said the move was symbolic, but it can be used to call for separation of religion and state.

"The goal of the event is mainly declarative. To change registration in the Interior Ministry, you have to go to court. For the court to believe that you do not believe in God, you have to pay a fee and a lawyer. We are working according to another law, which states that citizens must inform the Interior Ministry of a change in status," Carmeli said.

Carmeli also said that informing the Interior Ministry of the change in status to "without religion" was equivalent to informing the authorities of a change of address.

"We hope it will move something in the Interior Ministry and also that the attorney general will realize that every person who wants to be classified according to his conscience [should not] have to go to court," Carmeli said.

"We are protesting the Orthodox monopoly over who is a Jew in Israel and the implications for marriage, divorce and burial," Gitzin said, adding that the act was one of last resort against the link between the authority of the state and the Orthodox establishment.

"This protest is not just to preserve Israel as democratic but also to preserve its Jewish character, by allowing Jews from different denominations and worldviews to live by their faith," Gitzin said.



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