Arab-Jewish couple marry amid turmoil in Israel
Amid the tension of Israel’s fragile cease-fire with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, the private intimacy of Morel Malka and Mahmoud Mansour became a national political issue. The crux of it: She comes from a Jewish family. He’s a Muslim Arab.
Los Angeles Times
JERUSALEM — Sunday brought a different kind of pre-wedding jitters for one Israeli couple.
Instead of fretting over hairdos and guest arrangements, Morel Malka and Mahmoud Mansour spent the morning of their wedding in court, trying to keep extremists from ruining their special night.
More than 50,000 couples get married in Israel every year, but few of them make the evening news, inspire statements from the country’s president or have to hire protection.
Somehow, amid the tension of Israel’s fragile cease-fire with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, the private intimacy of Malka and Mansour became a national political issue.
The crux of it: She comes from a Jewish family. He’s a Muslim Arab.
When the Jaffa couple in their 20s posted their wedding invitation on Facebook, they just wanted to share their good news.
Instead, it attracted the attention of a group of Jewish extremists avowed to preventing mixed marriage — especially Jewish women marrying Arab men. And especially when they have converted to Islam, as Malka has done.
Run by ultranationalist Jewish activists, the group called Lehava is dedicated to what it calls “preventing assimilation in the Holy Land,” although it works against Israel’s Arab citizens on other issues as well.
Some of its supporters openly follow the teachings of Meir Kahane, a Jewish extremist assassinated in New York in 1990. Kahane’s doctrines are outlawed in Israel as racist and various offshoots of his political party are considered terror groups in Israel and abroad.
Members called for a demonstration outside the wedding hall in the city of Rishon Lezion on Sunday evening as the couple was being wed.
“Assimilation is nothing to celebrate,” right-wing activist Bentzi Gopstein told Israeli media.
According to Israeli media, Facebook removed the group’s page last month after repeated complaints that it encouraged incitement and racism. Sunday evening it was back up, calling on supporters to attend the protest against the wedding.
A court granted the group permission to protest but ordered protesters to stay some 220 yards from the entrance to the wedding hall.
Although heavy police forces were deployed at the site, the family hired security guards at their own expense. The war in Gaza has exacerbated an already high level of intolerance among right-wing extremists in Israel.
Other Israelis gathered outside the wedding Sunday, but for the opposite reason.
Responding to a Facebook call to attend a “vigil of love” for Mansour and Malka’s wedding, dozens of people from around the country showed their support with flowers, balloons and hand-painted signs congratulating the couple.
“This is an act of elementary humanism,” said organizer Noga Eitan.
“We are here to show basic decency and sound a liberal voice,” she said, adding it was a pity that even a wedding should become a political act in Israel.
Despite bitter political differences, “incitement, violence and racism have no place in Israeli society,” said President Reuven Rivlin, who wished the couple happiness and good fortune.
“We want to have a great wedding, one that no one has ever had,” the bridegroom was quoted as saying before the wedding. “No one can break us.”