A politician has called on Israel to allow civil marriage as a “basic right” after the mother of Artem Dolgopyat, the nation’s new Olympic champion, claimed the Ukraine-born star cannot marry his girlfriend under religious rules.
Dnipro-raised Dolgopyat cemented his place as an Olympic hero by winning gold in the men’s gymnastics floor tournament in Tokyo on Sunday, having made Aliyah – the Hebrew term for immigrating to Israel – because his family reportedly wanted him to have better opportunities in his discipline.
A two-time national champion in Ukraine by then, Dolgopyat’s media attention in his adopted homeland has extended to his mother, Angela – and she is said to have told a radio show that she is not Jewish according to orthodox law.
Although his mom told the station that Dolgopyat’s father is Jewish, that bloodline would mean he would not be allowed to marry in Israel, where citizens can only marry members of the same religion through established religious institutions, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Responding to a question about the newly-crowned champion having children, Angela revealed that the elastic-limbed 24-year-old has been living with his Belarusian girlfriend for three years.
She added that “the state won’t let him get married,”, with the prospect of joining the thousands of couples who carry out civil marriages abroad complicated by travel issues amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Gilad Kariv, a Rabbi and jurist who is a member of the country’s Knesset legislature, pledged to push for change after reading of Dolgofiat’s apparent plight.
“It is important to mention that the right to marry in your country or by order of your conscience is not related to an Olympic medal or any achievement,” he argued.
“This is a fundamental right. In short, champion Artem: keep bringing medals and we will continue to work hard to bring in freedom of choice.”
Backing Kariv’s view, a reader said: “Yep. Terrible. We allow Aliyah to children of Jewish parents, but don’t give them a way to get married, provide access to conversion or civil marriage. It’s mad to leave them in this insane limbo.”
Oh my god please let Artem Dolgopyat marry his girlfriend. He just won a gold medal for your country you’re being ridiculous.
— Blake Flayton (@blakeflayton) August 2, 2021
He’s arguing Dolgopyat isn’t the victim of discrimination because “all” Dolgopyat has to do is become religious to marry (whether that’s Jewish, Muslim, Christian etc doesn’t matter). But it is discrimination against non-religious people, and religious dissenters.
— MuscleJewish ??✡️ (@musclejewish) August 2, 2021
While others suggested that the current political situation between Israel and Palestine should be a more pressing concern for Kariv, another responded: “The sooner the better.
“I could not marry in Israel. My daughter will not be able to either. And I, too, fought in the war, lost friends, volunteered… not that it matters.”
Rabbi Hayim Leiter said Dolgopyat had “grown up his entire life as a Jew and as an Israeli” and called for the process for formal conversion in law to be “substantially shortened”, adding that he would be “honored to officiate” at his wedding even if he was not an Olympic star.
“The road to Judaism should not be one of pain and bureaucracy,” Leiter told the Times of Israel.
Labor leader @MeravMichaeli on gymnast Artem Dolgopyat: It can’t be that Israel doesn’t let him marry here. Just like we broke the kashrut monopoly, the time has come to end the monopoly of marriage in Israel. We will work in this Knesset to cancel that monopoly.
— Gil Hoffman (@Gil_Hoffman) August 2, 2021
Do it. This is not only a monopoly problem, this is a shame for Israel and a huge problem for many loyal israelis
— merrois (@merrois) August 2, 2021
“We should do our best to welcome all who want to become part of the Jewish people with open arms – but especially those who have lived as Jews their entire lives.”
Dolgopyat became the first Olympic gold medalist for Israel since windsurfer Gal Fridman triumphed at the 2004 Games in Athens.
Spain’s Rayderley Zapata matched his score, only for the Israeli to prevail as a result of having faced marginally more difficulty.
“I don’t really have the words – I am still in heaven,” said the winner afterwards. “I want to say thank you to everyone. I love everyone.”
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