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Israeli artistic gymnast takes gold at European Championships

Comment by former PM provokes Israeli finance minister to raise issue of civil marriage in Israel for mixed-religion couples

Artem Dolgopyat's floor exercise during the European Men's Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Munich, Germany, August 21, 2022. (Photo: Filippo Tomasi/LiveMedia/NurPhoto)

Israel’s Ukrainian-born artistic gymnast Artem Dolgopyat, who immigrated to Israel at the age of 12, overcame a month-old foot injury to win a gold medal for his floor routine on Sunday at the 2022 European Championships in Artistic Gymnastics in Munich. 

Dolgopyat’s performance score of 14.966 set him ahead of seven other finalists. Hungary’s Christopher Mészáros took silver, with a score of 14.600; and Jake German from Britain won the bronze, with 14.433.

This is Dolgopyat’s third gold medal in an international competition, following his win at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and the World Cup in Cairo last March. 

In a reference to his foot injury, the Israeli gymnast told reporters, “I only prepared for two weeks, but I did it and I’m delighted.”

Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sports Yehiel Moshe “Hili” Tropper congratulated Dolgopyat and praised him as an “amazing gymnast and athlete.”

“We are so proud of you,” he said. “You are a true champion!”

Dolgopyat reflected on his win to a German reporter, “I am very, very tired now, but happy. … I did it and I am delighted. Thank you to everyone for the encouragement.”

Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu commented on social media about Dolgopyat’s performance, saying, “He brought great honor to us all.”

Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, who represents many of the immigrants from the former Soviet Union, commented on Netanyahu’s Facebook post, criticizing the former prime minister’s position on civil marriage in light of his support for the athlete’s accomplishments. Dolgopyat has said that he would like to marry in Israel but does not qualify for a religious marriage – and the state does not allow civil marriages.

Dolgopyat’s father is Jewish, but his mother is not and, accordingly, he is not. Jewish rabbinical law accords the gymnast the right of return but makes him ineligible to marry a Jew in Israel. Netanyahu is against civil marriage, an issue for many of immigrants in the same situation as the athlete. 

Liberman stated publicly: “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.”

A 103FM Radio reporter raised the issue in an interview with Dolgopyat’s mother, Angela Bilan, last year, after he had won an Olympic gold. Bilan said then: “The state does not let him get married. He has a girlfriend and they have lived together for three years, but he cannot get married.” 

Couples in this situation usually leave the country and have a civil marriage abroad, which will then be recognized by the state, but this is a problem for Dolgopyat because of his busy sports schedule. 

Read more: SPORTS

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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