Olympic gold medalist Artem Dolgopyat became an Israeli national hero after becoming a champion gymnast and achieving his country's second-ever gold medal during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
However, the athlete cannot legally get married in his home country due to laws restricting him from the ritual because of his religious background. While Dolgopyat's father-side family is completely Jewish, his mother is not.
Gold Medalist Won't Get Married
The Chief Rabbinate does not recognize the Ukrainian-born athlete as religiously Jewish, which bars him from getting married. Under Israeli law, all marriages in the country must be conducted by legally recognized religious authorities, which is the Chief Rabbinate for Jews.
Dolgopyat immigrated to Israel under the country's law of return, which guaranteed him citizenship as long as he had at least one Jewish grandparent. The athlete's situation has caused the Chief Rabbinate not to acknowledge him as a Jew, barring him from marrying his long-time girlfriend in the state of Israel, Yahoo News reported.
The gymnast's situation was relatively common in Israel, being one of nearly 400,000 immigrant Israelis who are not legally considered Jewish. All of these individuals are not allowed to participate in recognized marriages in the country. A similar problem hinders interfaith couples who believe in different religions.
However, Dolgopyat's situation could soon change for the better as a survey by a nonprofit organization that campaigns for religious freedom showed that 65% of Israel adults support civil marriage in the Jewish state. Hiddush - For Religious Freedom and Equality and the Rafi Smith Institute were the ones that conducted the survey.
The survey also showed a stark contrast between the votes of people asked based on their political leaning. The data showed that all of the ultra-Orthodox party voters voted in objection to civil marriage while 98% to 100% of supporters of the secularist Meretz and Yesh Atid parties expressed their agreement with the idea, the Times of Israel reported.
Shifting Views on Separation of Religion and State
The athlete's mother, Angela Bilan, said during an interview that the state of Israel did not allow him to get married despite living together with his girlfriend for three years. Bilan said that if Dolgopyat wanted a civil marriage, he would have to go overseas with his partner, which was made difficult by his busy sports schedule.
Many found the results of the survey unsurprising as left-wing parties have been shown to support the concept. Many voters for conservative Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu also held similar perspectives. There are also talks that opinions in the Haredi community are changing as time went on. Haim Cohen, Jerusalem's Haredi deputy mayor, wrote a column where he was considering a sharper separation between religion and state in the country.
A classic element of Western liberalism can be seen in the idea that both religious communities and governments benefit from distinct spheres of operation. The Hiddush survey showed that while the view is still unpopular among Haredi voters, the leaders of the community seem to be recognizing the practical limits of its ability to regulate the non-Haredi majority, The Week reported.