According to Rabbi Yuval Alpert, who heads the Gar’in Torani (Torah core group) in Jaffa, the city’s public schools, in which Jews study side-by-side with Arabs, have led to high intermarriage rates.
“There is an Arab population of 30 percent in Yafo, and that is approximately the same percentage of Arabs in classrooms in the city's public schools,” Rabbi Alpert told Arutz Sheva’s Hebrew website on Wednesday. “Last year I was contacted and asked to come and teach about Purim. I arrived and found that a third of the class are Arab students. This is a very problematic phenomenon, because friendships are created and Jewish girls end up marrying Arabs and vice versa. In Yafo today, almost every building has intermarriage.”
Rabbi Alpert indicated that the intermarriage creates some of the most difficult halakhic questions.
“A woman came to us with a sweet child wearing a skullcap. She is married to an Arab but wants a Jewish education for her son,” he recalled. “We consulted with Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, who told us to accept him because he was Jewish. We also had a case of a woman who wanted her daughter to participate in our Bat Mitzvah project. She is married to an Arab and her entire family objected to the idea, and unfortunately in the end it did not happen.”
Rabbi Alpert said that the only solution to the intermarriage issue is to establish an educational system for Jews only.
“We're trying to establish a state religious educational system, which will not be forced to accept anyone,” he said. “Right now we have a daycare center and a kindergarten, and next year we will have Grades 1 and 2. We have established a center for Jewish and Zionist education and we have 1,200 students. I have no doubt that the integration that exists in the public schools leads to assimilation. In some cases, we involved in organizations such as Yad L'Achim to deal with some of these serious side effects.”
Expressing hope that the Yafo Gar’in Torani will continue to grow, Rabbi Alpert noted that there are no problems with the city’s Arab population and that the only concern is for intermarriage and the problems which arise from it.
“Any friction that occurs between Jews and Arabs is more in the media and among politicians. Here in the city itself everything is calm,” he said and added: “In the three and a half years since I created the Gar’in Torani we grew to 51 families. We are not dependent on one construction project or another; every family who wants to join can do so by renting or buying a home on its own.”
The Gar’in Torani voiced its opposition to last month’s march in Yafo by MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) and other nationalist activists, who wanted to march through the mixed Arab-Jewish neighborhood of Yafo while holding Israeli flags.
The Gar’in Torani said at the time that it was “firmly against any attempt, by anyone, Jew or Arab, to stir up tensions in Yafo in order to win political ratings at the expense of residents of the city. It would be fine to wave an Israeli flag and march in Yafo, but there is no room for a march the sole purpose of which is to fan the flames, and thus play into the hands of the extreme Left, which opposes the religious-Zionist presence in Yafo.”
The Tel Aviv District Police eventually agreed to allow a limited version of the march, after initially refusing to allow it at all.