Court rules Judaism, not place of birth, is grounds for Israeli citizenship (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Revital Hovel 05/16/12)
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The Haifa District Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal submitted by
Professor Uzzi Ornan, who sought to compel Israel´s Interior Ministry
to recognize his citizenship based on the fact that he was born in
Israel, rather than on the grounds that he was Jewish.
Ornan, a linguist and member of the Academy of the Hebrew Language,
who is also the founder of the League against Religious Coercion in
Israel, petitioned the Interior Ministry in 2010 to recognize him as
an Israeli, not on grounds of being Jewish but because he was born in
In his ruling on Tuesday, Judge Daniel Fisch said that it was without
a doubt that the petitioner, Prof Uzzi Ornan, was born to a Jewish
mother, and was therefore Jewish, which the law of return states as
the source of his citizenship.
"While the legislator´s definition of ´Jew´ was only added to the Law
of Return in 1970," Fisch wrote, "the turn to the accepted Jewish
halakhaic law is not a novelty, and an overview of the ruling
preceding the amendment shows that any time that a man´s Judaism
needs to be determined, that source has not been overlooked."
The judge also referred Ornan to two rulings from 1962 and 1968,
prior to the 1970 amendment that stipulated that "a Jew is anyone
born to a Jewish mother or that has converted and is not of another
Speaking to Haaretz, Ornan said that, while he was very disappointed
by the ruling, he intended to continue and appeal the case to the
"A judge appeals to Jewish law, and the ruling shows that Israel is a
Jewish community and not a civilian state," Ornan added.
In response to the petition, the State Prosecutor´s Office,
responding in the Interior Ministry´s name, said, "Ornan is allowed
to hold the opinion that the laws in question are racist legislation,
but he cannot impose his personal opinion on the Authority and force
it to act against the letter of the law."
The State Prosecutor´s Office rejected Ornan´s claim that he is "of
another religion" and thus exempt from being classified as a Jew
according to the Law of Return. "The fact that the petitioner is
listed in the Population Registry according to his declaration as a
person with no religion does not affect his being a Jew according to
halachic test determined in the Law of Return," the state replied.
"Accepting the petitioner´s interpretation would bring about a far-
reaching and unacceptable result that the sons of Jewish mothers
living abroad who declare to population registries abroad or in other
ways that they have no religion, would be denied the right to make
aliyah to Israel."
Ornan, 89, was born and grew up in Jerusalem, and lives today in the
Galilee village Nofit. During the British Mandate, he fought in the
Etzel and in 1944 was exiled to Eritrea after being informed on to
When he returned to Israel in 1948, he registered in the country´s
first census and insisted that he not be listed as a Jew. In the
religion box, he wrote that he has no religion and in
the "nationality" box, he wrote "Hebrew." In those days, the Interior
Ministry tended to accept what people wrote without asking too many
"In ´48, it wasn´t an issue," said Ornan. "The general atmosphere was
that this is a free and democratic country. There was force then too,
but nobody tried to change my ´nationality´ to Jew." (© Copyright
2012 Ha´aretz 05/16/12)
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