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August 20, 2014 1:46 pm
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Divorce the Personal From the Collective

avatar by Ruthie Blum

Wedding rings. Photo: Jeff Belmonte.

The brouhaha surrounding the wedding reception of a Jaffa couple on Sunday evening is yet another example of ideology gone haywire. In this case, it was right-wing extremism on display, though turning private matters into political causes is something at which the radical Left excels as well.

When word got out about the upcoming nuptials of Mahmoud Mansour (an Israeli Arab) and Morel Malka (an Israeli Jew who converted to Islam), the Organization for the Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land, Lehava, went into action. Posting the couple’s wedding invitation on its Facebook page, the group called on the public to demonstrate outside the banquet hall in Rishon Lezion where the festivities were to be held, “wielding banners and bullhorns.”

Both threats against the groom and messages of congratulations ensued.

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Fearing that violence would erupt during the festivities — particularly at this time of tension due to the war in Gaza — the groom petitioned the Rishon Lezion Magistrates’ Court to prevent the protest.

Judge Iryah Heuman Mordechai ruled that the protest could take place, but only at a distance of at least 200 meters away from the hall. She also ruled that the sides in the dispute could not contact each other, including via Facebook, for 90 days.

A few hundred people turned up at the event to condemn or support the couple, who hired 14 bodyguards for a high fee. Dozens of local police officers were also there to keep the peace. In the end, members of the “banners and bullhorns” crowd who tried to approach the hall were stopped; six were detained. Supporters waved balloons and posters wishing the couple well.

On Monday, politicians across the political spectrum weighed in on the wedding.

President Reuven Rivlin posted a congratulatory message on his Facebook page, wishing the couple “health, peace and joy.”

Health Minister Yael German sent a personal telegram stating: “On this, your day of rejoicing, I want to congratulate you and give you support. May you have many years together of happiness, love and tolerance.”

Finance Minister Yair Lapid admitted he would not want his son to marry a non-Jew.

“I think that the Jewish people is small,” he said. “I think we have a tradition; I think it needs to be protected, and [assimilation] bothers me.”

However, he added, “When I look at the people who demonstrated yesterday outside this wedding, they’re not bringing much honor to the Jewish people. This is an ugly group and this was an ugly demonstration, and the nation that suffered more than any other nation needs to show far more tolerance toward the other, even if it doesn’t approve of its actions.”

Only a handful of Knesset members were more critical of the wedding than of Lehava for its behavior.

United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni said, “At this time there is such a serious danger of assimilation to the Jewish people … and it is an embarrassment that a Jewish girl goes with a non-Jewish man. … They call this a marriage and harm Jewish tradition and the chain of the generations of our people in public.”

Lehava director Benzi Gopstein justified his ongoing efforts in general, and his protest against the Mansour wedding in particular.

“The State of Israel invests millions [against it] in the Diaspora,” he said. “We should not have to deal with this phenomenon in Israel as well.”

Ra’am-“ŽTa’al MK Ahmad Tibi called such sentiments — even those of Lapid — “anti-Arab racist,” though he himself hemmed and hawed when asked whether he would give his blessing to one of his children to marry a Jew.

Gopstein denied that his protest was because it involved an Arab. In this he can be trusted. Gopstein has proved himself to be an equal-opportunity idiot, spewing vitriol every which way about unions of Jews with gentiles, regardless of their origin. For example, he sent an angry letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2012, attacking him for marrying a non-Jew. And in January, he went on a rampage against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for allowing his son to date a non-Jewish Norwegian.

Yes, Gopstein and his ilk are a total disgrace and should be discounted, not given such a massive platform.

It is true that assimilation is considered, even by mainstream Israelis and Jews in the Diaspora, to be of serious concern for a people in danger of disappearing more through neglect than genocide. In a collective sense, it is an issue that needs confronting through education and other community means.

But love and marriage is an utterly personal matter. It cannot, nor should it, be dictated by an idea.

The bride who converted to Islam to marry the man she fell in love with five years ago may be causing her own family some angst. Indeed, her father was so against the whole thing that he did not attend the wedding. Her mother, on the other hand, remained supportive. For all one knows, the Jewish boyfriends her daughter previously dated were awful, and this man treats her daughter well.

The point is that none of us has a clue about the circumstances of this relationship, nor are they any of our business.

We are free to have opinions about the fate of the Jewish people. But there is absolutely no place for taking a political/ideological stand on the personal choice and privacy of someone else.

That is what freedom, a tantamount Jewish value, is all about.

Ruthie Blum is the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.'” This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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