An Israeli court refused on Sunday to prohibit a planned demonstration that night outside the wedding hall where a mixed Muslim-Jewish couple is celebrating their recent marriage, but ordered protesters to remain at least 200 meters from the venue.
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The Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court issued the ruling after the couple, Morel Malka and Mahmoud Mansour, applied for an injunction to stop a planned demonstration organized by Lehava (a Hebrew acronym for “preventing assimilation in the Holy Land”). Mansour is a Muslim Arab, while Malka is an Israeli Jew who converted to Islam.
In court on Sunday, the representative of the police proposed holding the demonstration in a parking lot about 200 meters from the hall. Judge Iriya Mordechai ruled that the protesters must remain at least 200 meters from the building, even if they refuse the parking-lot space offered to them. She stressed that her ruling is aimed at presenting friction between the demonstrators and the guests at the event, which will be held under heavy police guard.
“Regrettably, the respondents’ actions to prevent the wedding, which have been carried out at a sensitive time for Jewish-Arab relations in any case, have borne rotten fruit and have stirred up a turbid wave of hatred and violence that will peak at a moment that is known and predictable, like its results,” wrote attorney Yaniv Segev on Mansour’s behalf in his request for the injunction. “It is almost certain that the planned demonstration on the day of his wedding will spill over into violent lines.”
President Reuven Rivlin addressed the wedding in a post on his Facebook page. “There is a red line between freedom of speech and protest on the one hand and incitement on the other,” he wrote. “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. These manifestations are undermining the foundations of our shared life here in the Jewish and democratic, democratic and Jewish State of Israel.” Rivlin concluded the post with a quotation from the early Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky: “In the beginning God created the individual,” and added: “We are a free people in our country, in opinion and action, and I wish the young couple health, satisfaction and happiness.”
Over the past few days Lehava has been disseminating the invitation to the wedding, calling upon its supporters to show up at the venue and encouraging them to contact the couple and urge them to cancel the wedding. The two met five years ago and Morel has converted to Islam. Mahmoud relates that up until the past few days they had not experienced such blatant manifestations of racism.
“We’ve been together for five years, but we’ve never encountered such racism. I always knew there were racists, but as long as you’re not affected by it, until you feel it in your own body, you don’t know what it is,” Mahmoud told Haaretz.
“If it were someone from her family, I would understand, but these people aren’t related. Why do they care? Why are they getting involved? If they think they’ll get us to give up on each other, it won’t happen.” He added that many people have phoned them to express support.
However, following the post on Facebook the couple received death threats over the phone, as have members of their families. Both Mahmoud and Morel have since changed their phone numbers. Nevertheless, they have decided to hold the wedding as planned. Due to the threats, the police have required the couple to hire 33 security guards at a cost of about 15,000 shekels ($4,330). The owners of the hall have agreed to pay half the cost of the security.
Mansour objects to having to pay for the security and directed his complaints at the police: “Why are they forcing me to spend out of my own pocket?” Mahmoud said. “If something happens, they’re supposed to take care of it, not me.
“We feel great,” he added, “and that really gives us strength. They think they’ll break us, but we can’t be broken. The opposite is true – we’re getting stronger. The wedding will go on as planned – it will be great. I’m not worried, but it’s troubling that on this day, which everyone waits for their whole life, the happiest day of their life, I have to go to court in the morning.”
On Saturday night Morel was in the midst of the final preparations for the wedding. Her mother, her sisters and other relatives are slated to attend. Her father, however, is opposed to her marriage to a Muslim and has declared that he will not attend.
“Please God, a lot of people will come,” said the groom. “There may be some people who are afraid to attend and we haven’t managed to convince her father but it will be a beautiful event.”