Mixed-Marriage Protest Allowed From a Distance

Anti-assimilation group told by judge to stay 200 meters away from marriage between Jew and Arab, as both sides argue principles.

Yoni Kempinski, Ari Yashar ,

Mahmoud Mansour in court
Mahmoud Mansour in court
Flash 90

Bentzi Gopshtain, director of the Lehava organization which combats assimilation in Israel, arrived at the Rishon Letzion Magistrates' Court on Sunday morning, after Mahmoud Mansour filed a motion to block Lehava from protesting his wedding to a Jewish woman.

Mahmoud is set to marry Moral, a Jewish 23-year-old woman who, like him, hails from Yafo, on Sunday afternoon, despite the firm opposition of Moral's father, who has refused to attend the wedding. According to Mahmoud, Moral has already converted to Islam.

Lehava spread the invitation card of the wedding, calling for those concerned to come and protest in front of the wedding hall against assimilation and noting that "To get married with the enemy in a city like Rishon Letzion that is being bombarded by Arabs is a disgrace." 

In the court Sunday, Gopshtain and Mahmoud sat not far from each other, although not a word was exchanged between them. Judge Iryah Mordechai ruled to set in effect an agreement reached between lawyers from both sides.

According to the agreement, both sides recognize Lehava's right to protest the mixed-marriage, but the protest must stay a distance of 200 meters (650 feet) from the wedding hall.

If the police grant the protesters a site closer to the hall, they will be able to voice their opposition from that location, according to the agreement.

Speaking about the planned protest in court, Gopshtain said "this isn't against one person or another, this is an issue of principles. We spoke with Moral without success. I've got no reason to contact him (Mahmoud). This is a matter of principles, not against one particular wedding or another. We will arrive at every wedding like this."

Leaving the court, Mansour said "I'm happy that we got what we wanted, the court put an order against them. I hope that all the brothers will come and the police will be there, ready for anything.

Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir, who represented Lehava in court, likewise said in leaving the court "we are very satisfied with the court's decision, we think that freedom of expression won out."

"From the beginning we didn't intend to get so close to the location of the wedding, and we think that precisely the request of the petitioner, the groom in an assimilation wedding, turned everything around," added the attorney, noting the attention the case has garnered.

New President Rivlin touts democracy

Newly instated President Reuven Rivlin also saw fit to speak about the issue on Sunday, coming out on the side of the assimilating couple.

"Mahmoud and Moral of Yafo decided to marry according to their freedom in a democratic country. The revelations of incitement against them are outrageous and worrying, regardless of whatever my position or that of another will be on the issue (of mixed marriages)," wrote Rivlin on his Facebook page.

Rivlin added "these statements (against assimilation) chew away at the fundamentals of our common lives here in the state of Israel, which is Jewish and democratic, democratic and Jewish. We are a free people in our land, in opinion and action, and I wish the fresh couple health, satisfaction and joy."

It should be noted that Jewish law expressly forbids marriage with non-Jews who have not undergone a proper conversion to Judaism.

In contrast to Rivlin's calls for democratic freedom, Ben-Gvir also called for such a freedom - the right to free speech.

"People have the right to protest against mixed marriages, and the attempt to silence them is a serious, unprecedented infringement," said Ben-Gvir.

Responding to Rivlin's criticism, Ben-Gvir stated "it's sad to hear that the state president is ignoring the danger of assimilation and encouraging assimilation, instead of coming with us to protest this disgrace."

"I expect Mr. Rivlin to dedicate his time to the war on assimilation in Israel and globally. Because today it's Moral, tomorrow it could be his granddaughter," added the attorney.

Gopshtain likewise said "apparently the groom thinks he lives in an Islamic country and therefore he submitted a request like this. Israel is a democracy and I'm allowed to protest against a serious phenomenon."

​In nearly all cases of mixed marriages with Arabs in Israel, the Jewish partner is the bride. It has become a well documented phenomenon that such wives often suffer abuse from their Arab husbands, both emotional and physical, and in many cases require help to escape.