Opinion

A Racist Wedding at the Maccabiah Games

By broadcasting a wedding live from the Jewish sporting event's opening ceremony, Israel's main TV channel sent a clear message about preventing assimilation

Avi Steinberg and Rachel Dixon's wedding at the Maccabiah Games
Nir Keidar

During the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games, which took place in Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium on July 6 and was broadcast live on Channel 2, the following took place: A singer sang a song about the Western Wall. A bride marched past an illuminated model of the Kotel, over which a huge Star of David was displayed. A narrator then asked God, in a number of languages, to return her son to her from the army. A dance troupe performed. White confetti floating in the air consisted of real notes that had been placed in the Wall – at least that’s what the host, actor Noa Tishby, claimed.

Tishby called Avi Steinberg – a member of the Canadian Maccabiah ice hockey team – onto the stage. He said “Shalom” in that solemn and important tone that is reserved for patriotic, English-speaking Jews. He recounted how his girlfriend and the love of his life, Rachel Dixon, had just completed the process of converting to Judaism, which took a year and a half. This was her first trip to Israel. The crowd was asked to give Dixon a round of applause for converting. Tishby invited Dixon onto the stage. Dixon said she felt honored to be here. Welcome Rachel.

Avi Steinberg and Rachel Dixon's wedding at the Maccabiah Games

Avi then told Rachel he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. He got down on one knee, took Rachel’s hand and asked, “Will you marry me?” She said yes. They hugged. “Mazal tov!” said Tishby. The crowd went wild.

Someone emerged from behind-the-scenes with a wedding dress. Tishby announced the wedding would take place right here, right now, with the ceremony performed by the rabbi who had converted Dixon. The couple was sent backstage to change clothes. Tishby asked the Canadian hockey team to provide four volunteers to hold the wedding canopy, the chuppah. Soon there would be a Jewish wedding ceremony, broadcast live in prime time on Channel 2.

The message to Jews around the world was clear. It’s very important for Jews to marry Jews. The fact the bride had converted underlined the importance of this to prevent assimilation. The live broadcast of the wedding in prime time on Channel 2 created a kind of ritual to strengthen the Jewish identity of all the television viewers.

It must be stated clearly: The insistence that Jews marry other Jews is racist. It goes without saying that a wedding between a Jewish man and non-Jewish woman would never be presented on Israeli television as an event to be celebrated and rejoiced over. Because when it comes to state occasions – and that includes the Maccabiah Games – people are judged by their religious affiliation. Rachel was therefore applauded for the fact she had converted to Judaism. As if by joining the ranks of the Jewish people, she went up a notch, bettered herself, saw the light. Jews are exalted. Disqualifying non-Jews as potential spouses is racist.

Israeli singer Avraham Tal performed the wedding song. The bride and groom stood under the chuppah, beneath the giant Star of David. The rabbi blessed the Lord who sanctifies His People Israel. And the crowd chanted “Amen!” This is what events held by cults in American stadiums look like.

The groom stated the wedding vow: “Harei at mekudeshet li.” The rabbi explained that the chuppah symbolizes the Jewish home and that they were marrying in Jerusalem, “surrounded by the entire spectrum of the Jewish people.” The traditional seven blessings were recited, along with repeated recitations of “Baruch ata Adonai.” “Where are your amens?” the rabbi implored the crowd. The groom broke the glass.

I have written what I saw. People can draw their own conclusions. From my viewpoint, the Maccabiah is a racist event.