Jewish-Muslim wedding causes outrage in Israel
A wedding between a Jewish woman and a Muslim man attracted over 200 protestors in Israel on Sunday, who chanted "death to the Arabs" outside the ceremony held in Tel Aviv.
The bride, 23-year-old Maral Malka, was born Jewish but later converted to Islam and chose to marry a Muslim man – Mahmoud Mansour, 26.
Wielding signs and shouting, protestors branded Malka a "traitor against the Jewish state," showcasing heightened tensions amid the ongoing month-long war in Gaza.
Police were brought in to keep the protestors – from far-right Jewish group Lehava – at least 200m from the wedding hall, and arrested four people. Most of those joining in the disturbance were young men wearing black shirts who threatened the couple, apparently even singing a song which included the phrase: "May your village burn down," Reuters reports.
Lehava – Organisation for Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land – opposes relationships between Arab Muslims and Jews, and is known for intimidating couples who defy its principles.
Spokesman Michael Ben-Ari has said intermarriage between Jews and other faiths is "worse than what Hitler did".
However, the group seldom protests wedding ceremonies, but was given permission by the High Court of Israel to picket at the hall in Rishon LeZion on Sunday.
The demonstration follows significant unrest in the region after Israel began air strikes over the border into Gaza on July 8 under the title 'Operation Protective Edge'.
Since then, 1,976 Palestinians and 67 Israelis have been killed.
Almost 240,000 Gazans are now considered to be IDPs, while the homes of an estimated 100,000 have been severely damaged or entirely destroyed.
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Civilians are said to be surviving on less than one litre of water per day.
Despite the aggressive picket, Mansour – who has condemned objectors as "racists" and hired private security guards for the ceremony – told reporters that his wedding party would "dance and be merry until the sun comes up.
"We live in true coexistence," he added. "I don't really care what people say. We've been married since Friday; Morel converted to Islam and a sheikh married us. Today is really just for the party. On the street where I live, you can find 50 per cent Jews and 50 per cent Arabs, and it doesn't really matter – a human being is a human being."
His new father-in-law, however, criticised the union. "My problem with him [Mansour] is that he is an Arab," he told an Israeli TV station.
"[The wedding is] a very sad event."
New Israeli President Reuven Rivlin condemned the picketers' behaviour as "outrageous and worrying" in a statement.
"Such expressions undermine the basis of our coexistence here, in Israel, a country that is both Jewish and democratic," he said.
"Not everyone has to rejoice about their [the couple's] happy occasion, but everyone must respect it."