In Haifa District Court on Tuesday the judge ruled that whether a person is an Israeli citizen is determined by whether that person is of Jewish descent, i.e. born to a Jewish mother following halachic law, and not by their place of birth or whether they are by religion Jewish or not. Haaretz reports that the Haifa District Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal submitted by Professor Uzzi Ornan who has 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 is Jewish. Prof Ornan claims no religious faith but was born in what is now Israel.
In his ruling on Tuesday, Judge Daniel Fisch said that it is without doubt that the petitioner, Prof Uzzi Ornan, was born to a Jewish mother and is therefore Jewish, which the law of return states as the source of his citizenship.
The judge referred to previous rulings that ‘a Jew is anyone born to a Jewish mother or that has converted and is not of another religion.’
It is unclear what impact this will have on the Christian, Muslim and atheist citizens of Israel, which constitute around twenty percent of Israel’s population.
Tuesday’s court decision also brings into question the Israeli government’s claim that it is both a Jewish and democratic state. As the plaintiff in the case, Uzzi Ornan, told reporters Tuesday, “A judge appeals to Jewish law, and the ruling shows that Israel is a Jewish community and not a civilian state.” Orman and others say that this proves that Israel is a Jewish state, and not a democratic one.
In his ruling, Judge Daniel Fisch appealed to Jewish religious law, and the ‘Right of Return’ which allows anyone born of a Jewish mother anywhere in the world to claim Israeli citizenship.
The state prosecutor’s office stated that the fact that the petitioner is by his own declaration in the Population Registry a person with no religion does not affect his being a Jew according to halachic test determined in the Law of Return.