'Befriend Arabs, but Don't Date'

Female Reform leaders criticize Orthodox Rabbi's wives call to Jewish women to avoid socializing with Arab men, but do oppose dating.

Maayana Miskin, | updated: 18:06

Protest against intermarriage in Tel Aviv
Protest against intermarriage in Tel Aviv
Flash 90

Female Reform Jewish "Rabba"'s [feminine for Rav, the term suggested for female Reform spiritual leaders in Israel, ed.] have written a letter criticizing a call from Orthodox rabbis' wives (rebbetzins) for Jewish women not to socialize with or date Arab men because of the possibility of this leading to marriage, which they see as a natural result of male-female friendships.. The Reform "Rabba's" only disagreed with the rebbetzins in part – while they believe Jewish women and Arab men should socialize, they remain opposed to their marrying one another..

“We... oppose interfaith marriages, but we consider professional and social contacts between us and all of Israel's citizens and residents to be positive – regardless of race, religion, or sex,” the letter said. It was signed by 40 women serving as Reform spiritual leaders in Israel.

The female Reform leaders seem to have seem themselves as parallel to the Orthodox rabbi's wives in writing an all-women's response. Male Reform rabbis said they also support the Reforms women's letter.

The rebbetzins' letter, sent last week, had called on young Jewish women to avoid professional or social contact with Arab men in order to avoid dating relationships. The women are likely to find that Arab men in the workplace will attempt to win their affection with gifts and compliments, only to mistreat them in any ensuing relationship and force them break off contact with their families, the letter said, citing many instances where this has occurred. They reminded young women that their grandparents or families came to live in the Jewish State in order to preserve Judaism.

The rebbetzins cautioned that dating between Jewish women and Arab men often leads to situations in which Jewish women are left isolated and under the control of their Arab boyfriends or husbands, and are forced to abandon their Jewish identity.

The issue of interfaith marriage is anathema in Israel, where Jewish-Moslem intermarriage runs mainly one way – Muslim men attempt and succeed in  marrying Jewish women, mostly from poorer segments of society, but Jewish men who attempt to date Muslim women face severe repercussions, including physical violence.

Close to 100% of the children of mixed Jewish-Muslim marriages identify as Muslim as the women are not allowed contact with their former Jewish milieu. Many women who wish to be rescued from interfaith marriages that have turned out to be abusive have turned to Yad Le"Achim, the organization that attempts to arrange their escapes from Arab villages. Many continue to suffer because they do not want to leave their children..