Novelist Yoram Kaniuk pictured in Hollywood in 2008
An Israeli writer has won a historic court victory granting his request to be officially registered as "without religion" rather than "Jewish," Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Sunday. © Michael Buckner - AFP/Getty Images
Novelist Yoram Kaniuk pictured in Hollywood in 2008
AFP
Last updated: October 19, 2011

Israeli wins right to be classed as 'no religion'

An Israeli writer has won a historic court victory granting his request to be officially registered as "without religion" rather than "Jewish," Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Sunday.

Yoram Kaniuk turned to the courts in May after the interior ministry refused to alter his official religious status from Jewish to "without religion," Haaretz said.

And last week, a Tel Aviv court sided with his demand, ruling that Israeli law allows citizens to be officially registered as having no religion.

"Freedom from religion is a freedom derived from the right to human dignity, which is protected by the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom," Haaretz quoted the ruling as saying.

"The only question that must be weighed is whether the plaintiff proved the seriousness of his intentions... I see no need to impose on the plaintiff any burden with the exception of bringing his request before the court," it added.

Speaking to Haaretz, Kaniuk called the court's decision a "ruling of historic proportions."

"The court granted legitimacy to every person to live by their conscience in this land, in ruling that human dignity and freedom means a person can determine their own identity and definition. In this way I can be without religion but Jewish by nationality. I am so thrilled," he told the newspaper.

Israel registers its citizens according to both their religion and their ethnicity, although it does not include an "Israeli" ethnicity, labelling its Jewish citizens as of "Jewish" ethnicity.

That has raised the ire of secular groups who have petitioned the interior ministry for years to replace the Jewish ethnicity label with an Israeli one.

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