MembersA Heart, a Passport, a Nation

by Arthur Schwartzman

The birth of a son is a joyous occasion, but an appointment with the Ministry of Interior reminded me of one of Israel’s many paradoxes

| Topics: Zionism
Who's Jewish? Who's Israeli? And why is that still not a nationality unto itself? Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

After the birth of my son, I expected to receive his certificate of birth within the first several weeks after the registration at the hospital. Unfortunately, the certificate didn’t arrive. When I asked the kind clerk about the delay, I was told that it was because we failed to submit the religion and nationality of the newborn. I scratched my head. Nationality? I understand the religion clause being a matter of choice, but nationality? Can one choose his nationality? The clerk assured me that the answer in our case was yes. From the government’s perspective, I’m not considered Jewish, and am registered as Russian, while my wife is an American ex-pat. Since our son can’t be both, we’d have to choose the label.

My son was born in Israel, he’ll grow up speaking Hebrew, serve in the IDF, vote for Israeli political parties, and contribute to this diverse society, but the government will deem him an American (as was our decision). According to Ministry of Interior policy, he’ll be an Israeli...

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