Marrying in Israel is a religious matter. Still, people often go to Cyprus or elsewhere for civil weddings, and return with marriages that are fully valid in Israel. But an intermarriage cannot be performed in Israel unless one party converts to the religion of the other. When an Israeli-Jewish woman converted recently to marry an Israeli-Muslim man, their union became controversial, drawing the protests of a group called the “Organization for Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land” or Lehava. The wedding party hired 14 security guards and hundreds of police further secured them after Lehava was enjoined by a court order in the Rishon Lezion regional court to demonstrate no closer than 200 meters.
The Facebook comments of both Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Meretz head Zehava Gal-On are illuminating. Ms. Gal-On responded sharply as well as brilliantly (more on that later). First, Pres. Rivlin wished the couple well, declaring:
There is a red line between freedom of speech and protest on the one hand and incitement on the other. Mahmoud and Morel from Jaffa have decided to marry and to exercise their freedom in a democratic country. The manifestations of incitement against them are infuriating and distressing, whatever my opinion or anyone else’s might be regarding the issue itself.
Not everyone has to share in the happiness of Mahmoud and Morel — but everyone has to respect them. Among us and within our midst there are harsh and sharp disagreements, but incitement, violence and racism have no place in Israeli society.