Olympic gold medalist Artem Dolgopyat, an Israeli artistic gymnast who immigrated from Ukraine when he was 12, won gold at the European Championships Sunday. He also made headlines again regarding the dilemma many couples in Israel face: there’s no civil marriage option. Only those who are recognized as Jewish, Muslim, or Christian can get married. Dolgopyat’s father was Jewish, but his mother is not, so Jewish authorities won’t preside over his wedding to a Jewish woman.
Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Dolgopyat on social media on his outstanding performance. “He brought great honor to us all.”
With elections slated for the fall, politics are never far away from any issue in Israel. Avigdor Liberman, Israel’s Finance Minister, immediately started a social media conversation with Netanyahu. Liberman represents many Russian and former Soviet Union immigrants, who often find themselves in the same situation as Dolgopyat. Netanyahu does not support civil marriages (perhaps to keep his far-right, Orthodox allies happy).
Liberman called out Netanyahu on his Facebook post: “Bibi, after congratulating Artem, I’m sure that you will promote a civil marriage law together with the next Knesset so that he can get married in Israel.”
Couples of mixed religious backgrounds (or no religious affiliation) usually just go to Cyprus or some other country that performs civil marriages and get married. Citing his demanding training schedule and gymnastic meets, Dolgopyat and his girlfriend have not gone on a “destination wedding” to Cyprus yet.
Dolgopyat’s victory on Sunday was hard won and against great odds. He overcame a month-old foot injury that left him with only two weeks to prepare for the 2022 European Championships in Artistic Gymnastics in Munich. His floor routine earned him a score of 14.966 and the gold medal. Hungary took second place, and Britain won the bronze.
“I only prepared for two weeks, but I did it, and I’m delighted,” Dolgopyat said after his achievement. “I am very, very tired now but happy. Thank you to everyone for the encouragement.”
This is his third gold in international competition—he also won the top spot in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and the World Cup in Cairo in July this year.
“Chili” Tropper, Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sports, called Dolgopyat an “amazing gymnast and athlete. We are so proud of you. You are a true champion!”