Israel’s Olympic gold victory raises Jewish identity debate

By ILAN BEN ZION

JERUSALEM (AP) — Artem Dolgopyat fulfilled a lifelong dream when he won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. But back home in Israel, his hopes of trading gold wedding bands with his longtime girlfriend seem to be an impossible dream.

The Ukrainian-born Israeli gymnast was hailed as a national hero for winning Israel’s second-ever gold medal — and its first in artistic gymnastics. But the celebrations were tempered after his mother lamented that the country’s authorities will not allow him to wed because he is not considered Jewish according to Orthodox law.

“The state doesn’t allow him to marry,” Dolgopyat’s mother, Angela, told 103FM in an interview Sunday.

Her comments touched a raw nerve in this country, which has repeatedly struggled with balancing matters of religion and state since it was founded as a refuge for Jews 73 years ago.

Under its “Law of Return,” anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent is eligible for Israeli citizenship. But while Dolgopyat’s father is Jewish, his mother is not. Under “halacha,” or Jewish religious law, one must have a Jewish mother to be considered Jewish.

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