Just two days after Yoram Kanuik passed away at the age of 83, Knesset Member Israel Eichler (United Torah Judaism) called out against the eulogy published by Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat and referred to the deceased author as a "Jew hater."
"When I hear that one of the haters of Judaism died…Someone who declared he wanted to become non-religious and married a foreigner, (Livnat) bemoans the great loss as a result of this Jew hater's death. It's unbelievable," the ultra-Orthodox lawmaker told the Knesset plenum. "Is this Jewish culture? Is this a Jewish state?"
In her eulogy, Livnat called Kaniuk "one of the greatest writers of our time," adding that his books helped shape the Israeli ethos.
In response to Eichler's comments, Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On said he was "arrogant, repulsive and unworthy of his place among the lawmakers."
The ultra-Orthodox and religious street reacted with mixed emotions to the news of the death of Kaniuk, who was born Jewish, lived as an atheist and died "without religion," and even chose not to be buried according to Jewish tradition.
While there were those who criticized him for his hostile attitude and estrangement from his roots, some mentioned that "a Jew is a Jew is a Jew," and religious gestures were made for the elevation of his soul – saying the Kaddish prayer, studying Mishna and reciting Psalms.
Towards the end of his life, Kaniuk held a public and legal campaign to be recognized as having "no religion" in the Population Registry – like some of his offspring, yet Jewish Law rules that a person born to a Jewish mother cannot annul his religion or convert, and even if he did – it is meaningless. Many decided to rise above the baggage they have carried against the deceased writer and pay their last respects to him, according to their faith.
Israel's Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger told Ynet, "Although I feel a lot of pain over his personal decision, and his legal battle, which eventually opened a breach for the registration of Jewish citizens as having no religion, we at the Chief Rabbinate will make sure that someone will say Kaddish for him throughout the first year, because he is a Jew after all."