More than 200 Israeli right-wing protesters were stopped by local police from disrupting an inter-religious wedding between a Jewish woman and a Muslim man in Tel Aviv on Sunday. Four protesters were reportedly arrested by Israeli police who formed a human chain to keep the protesters out, and charged after those that defied them.
Maral Malka, 23, and Mahmoud Mansour, 26, a couple from the Jaffa section of Tel Aviv had unsuccessfully sought a court order to prevent the protest. However, the police kept the protesters 200 yards away from the wedding venue in Rishon Lezion, a suburb of Tel Aviv, an Al Arabiya report said. The protests have occurred in the backdrop of the bloodiest confrontation between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip since 2000.
Lehava, a Jewish right-wing group that organized the demonstration, has been known to harass Jewish-Arab couples in the past, citing religious grounds for their objections to such relationships. Michael Ben-Ari, the Lehava spokesman and a former lawmaker, denounced interfaith marriages between Jews and non-Jews as “worse than what Hitler did.”
Most of the protesters -- young Jewish men wearing black shirts -- denounced the bride as a “traitor against the Jewish state” and shouted slogans of hatred toward Arabs. Malka was born Jewish and converted to Islam before the wedding. Mansour, the groom, reportedly told Israel’s Channel 2 TV that the protesters had failed to stop the wedding.
“We will dance and be merry until the sun comes up. We favour coexistence,” he said.
Meanwhile, a few dozen left-wing Israelis organized a counter-protest by holding flowers, balloons and a sign that read “Love Conquers All.”
Reuven Rivlin, the president of Israel, criticized the protest on Facebook as a “cause for outrage and concern,” adding: “Such expressions undermine the basis of our coexistence here, in Israel, a country that is both Jewish and democratic.”
Yael German, Israel’s health minister and a centrist in Netanyahu’s government, who was a guest at the wedding reportedly said that the protests were "an expression of democracy.”
Rabbinical authorities who govern Jewish nuptials in Israel object to inter-faith marriages for fear that it will diminish the numbers of the Jewish people, however, many Israeli couples travel abroad for an inter-faith marriage. Arabs make up about 20 percent of Israel’s population.
Yoram Malka, the father of the bride reportedly said on Israeli television that he objected to the union calling it “a very sad event,” and said that he was upset with his daughter for converting to Islam. “My problem with him is that he is an Arab,” he added, referring to his son-in-law.