Dolgopyat, who won an Olympic gold medal in the finals of the men’s floor exercise at the 2020 Tokyo Games on Sunday, is not Jewish according to Jewish law.
His mother, Angela, is not Jewish, she told Radio 103FM on Sunday, meaning her children are not Jewish according to Orthodox law. Artem’s father is Jewish, she said.
Israel has no provision for civil marriage, and citizens can only marry through established religious institutions, such as the Chief Rabbinate, which will only marry members of the same religion. According to Orthodox halacha, Israelis like Dolgopyat who are not considered Jewish do not have a way to get married in the State of Israel.
The Dolgopyat family made aliyah from Ukraine to give Artem better opportunities to progress in his discipline.
Asked by the radio interviewers when Artem might give her a grandchild, Angela said he has a girlfriend from Belarus with whom he has been living for three years. But “the state won’t let him get married,” she said, referring to the lack of civil marriage in the country.
Some 9,000 couples every year register civil marriages performed abroad with the Population and Immigration Authority. However, such couples have not been able to travel abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving many without recourse.
Angela said it was difficult for Artem to travel because of the demanding requirements of his training.
Her comments sparked a debate on social media over the issue.
Labor MK Gilad Kariv, a former director of the Reform Movement in Israel, tweeted: “The right to get married in your country or accordance with your conscience is not connected to Olympic medals or any other achievement,” but rather something that every country should enable for all its citizens.
“It is a basic right, or in short, Artem, you, a champion, will continue to bring medals, and we will continue to fight strongly to bring you free choice in marriage and divorce,” Kariv wrote.
Although the Labor Party and the Meretz Party, both members of the governing coalition, are both in favor of civil marriage, their coalition agreements with Yesh Atid merely stipulate that the sides work to advance “a solution for partnership status for couples who cannot get married.”
The coalition agreement between Yesh Atid and Yamina, which takes precedence over all the other agreements, does not include any clauses about advancing civil marriage. In addition, it says no reforms will be enacted to the current status quo on religion-and-state issues unless there is agreement within the coalition to make such changes.