Opening the door

It’s starting already.

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.

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

Mazel tov!



  1. Stewart says

    Kaniuk’s lawyer left this on Oded Carmeli’s Facebook page 5 hours ago (my translation from Hebrew):

    “Guys, it’s important for you to know that each and every one of you can make the application to the Interior Ministry by yourselves, and as far as I understand it – and I have some understanding as Yoram Kaniuk’s lawyer who received the judgement – each and every one of you ought to make the request by yourselves. There is no need to pay a lawyer for this, not even one cent [“agora” in the original]. Later it will be worth having a battle that this may be done without resorting to court action. Good luck.

  2. Stewart says

    Now I’ve got the background to that on the event’s Facebook page (674 confirmed attending, 142 maybes and 2,393 awaiting reply – only 188 not attending). They were going to take 200 shekels from everyone having their request registered by the two lawyers who are there now. When they saw how many were coming they dropped the price to 50 shekels, but Katz Mastbaum is intervening to say this shouldn’t be costing anything.

    Carmeli’s word is: “… everyone can let the Interior Ministry know about a change of status without any need for a lawyer. I initiated this event because I thought that a mass-signing in the presence of a lawyer has greater protest value than an ordinary letter sent independently to the Interior Ministry.”

  3. says

    Mazel tov! May their protest shake up the fusty old rabbis and worry ’em a bit. They could use a little worry in their lives, in my opinion.

    Apropos of nothing, my father-in-law the rabbi and my mother-in-law the sabra both say that the problem in Israel is the 1/3 of the people do the work, 1/3 pay taxes, and 1/3 serve in the army. The problem is that it’s all the same 1/3.

  4. Tim Groc says

    This is good news, and very promising, but the real challenge is for this to happen in a Muslim country.

    It will do one day because all religions go to the wall at some point, but we might have to wait just a while yet.

  5. Stewart says

    Nice one, Mara.

    So far, no reports found on what happened. The event’s Facebook page has a comment from someone who was there and is disappointed that it was too symbolic and not enough real change and one of two people who “liked” it is Kaniuk’s lawyer.

    There’s an online petition that quotes from the judge who ruled on the Kaniuk case and so far only 11 people have signed it. It seems that, wherever possible, it’s being ignored, downplayed or mocked. It doesn’t seem to have hit most of the media far right of centre at all. As for mockery, a rabbi who is a parliamentarian for United Torah Judaism was as dismissive as only someone can be who knows how the demographics are stacked against him ever losing any power (the quote is in here: – some “gems” of comments there, too).

  6. says

    Oh, Stewart, do you have a link for the Facebook page? I tried to find it earlier and couldn’t. Though I expect it’s in Hebrew so a link won’t do me much good.

  7. Stewart says

    Well, it’s here if anyone who can read it wants it:

    Most of the names are in English, so even without being able to read it you can see how often Kaniuk’s lawyer has posted on it.

    I wondered, for a brief second, if it weren’t worth checking for some equivalent English-language page and then dismissed the thought utterly; most of the English-speakers there are very firmly on the side of the rabbinate, the wished-for clout of which having been part of what brought them there in the first place. This “rebellion” most definitely belongs to native speakers of Hebrew.

  8. Stewart says

    A “no religion” Facebook group has been set up; so far only 12 “likes.” Mickey Gitzin, one of the organisers of last night’s event, is supposed to be on radio about it at 2 o’clock this afternoon.

  9. says

    I think it may be slow building, but it’s very exciting and I’m (perhaps irrationally) optimistic about this growing.

    Stewart, that article you linked to @ #5 is quite something. I laughed because I first read this passage very differently from the way the writer intended it:

    Of course I support his basic democratic right to be registered as a member of whatever religion he chooses to belong to, or not to belong to – in his case. It just seems that Kaniuk has committed the worst crime possible for an author of fiction: he has exhibited a total lack of imagination.

  10. Stewart says

    SC, you’re not the only one to have been struck by that.

    It’s interesting that outside the really radical religious right, even the opposition to the movement Kaniuk has enthused feels forced to concede that the rabbinate has created a lot of the ill feeling towards it by its own behaviour.

    Oded Carmeli posted this Maariv link on Facebook:

    Even if you can’t read it, there’s a picture of some of the signing. As an exclusive service to B&W readers, I’ve done a little translated distillation of some of the comments following it, many of which make the most hardline comments you could read at Haaretz or The Jerusalem Post seem very civilised indeed. As has been pointed out (not least by Christopher Hitchens) the eternal hellfire of Christianity was something that Judaism didn’t have. Reading these comments will make clear why it wasn’t necessary – because. the. Jews. have. guilt. Of a kind that makes hellfire pale. Actually a lot of the later comments are more positive, seeming to come from people who just heard Mickey Gitzin on radio. They’re a mixture throughout, but the vitriolic ones really do stand out. Try reading it as if it were Dutch Schultz’s deathbed monologue…:)

    A shame and a disgrace. After the whole world has slaughtered us, people don’t want to identify with their religion… nobody checked if the Jew put on tefilin before throwing him into the ovens… The end of the world, the “Jews” have gone crazy!!!!!!… You’re not satisfied with being Jewish???? Then become Moslems/Christians!!!! You’ve lost your minds – the destruction of the Third Temple…. spineless herd… old junk. That’s what I see in the picture…. If you really want to annoy the religious, everybody should announce they’ve been baptised… a miserable isolated communist racist bunch of old men, whose job is over… Interesting that most of them are Ashkenazim…?!?! Do you know something that the Oriental Jews don’t?… I pity you… I suggest that they get the hell out of here… Haters of Israel, leave the country… see u all again in Auschwitz… At last all the Lefties are no longer connected to us… This is exactly what the Jews did in Europe 70 years ago… we know how this ends… Since Israel is a Jewish state – it’s better they leave the country… Gentiles!… The court is bankrupt, it’s bringing disaster on the Jewish people… And now move to Palestine… These are people who are ashamed of being Jewish… I despise them… Millions of Jews were executed only for being Jewish. Today you are defiling them… I’m proud to be a Jew!!!… I’m proud to be tall with blue eyes!!… We’ve forgotten where we came from… A herd of sheep following an old man who’s gone round the bend… I’m prepared to bet they’re all Leftists… The Tel Avivis are destroying the state… The Jewish people needs to cast them out; from today you bear the mark of Cain on your foreheads… All the trash of the State of Israel!!!… I don’t believe in the concept of God, but this is really an unnecessary act… Come to our church, you Hellenists!… The rage of the people here is amusing… The picture says it all – delusional, confused, tired old men – a pity… The reactions show that the orthodox establishment is beginning to worry. When there’s no demand for religion, business is slow… There are no words powerful enough to express the contempt I feel for you… We’re here, we’re atheists, get used to it… It won’t help, the Nazis will take you anyway, you were born Jewish… Somebody forced something on you? Were you ever forced to keep the Sabbath? Were you ever forced not to drive a car? Or to wear a kippa or fringes? You’re a mixed multitude, that’s what you are… I just hope the rabbis will agree not to marry them and let them mix only with the Russians… Shame on you – soldiers are being killed defending the state and the flag… Help! What’s going on here?… A real pleasure to see how this is making the benighted crazy… No problem, to be a Jew is a privilege. Mixed multitudes and rubbish outside!!!… You’re still Jews, atheists and stupid… Renouncing the religion=renouncing citizenship, get out to Egypt!!… Only 200 Leftist traitors came, let them go to Gaza, who needs them…

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