Mahmoud Mansour spent the morning of his wedding in the most unlikely of places: not at the florist or the tailor, but at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court. He was trying to prevent the conservative group Lehava, which is opposed to marriages between Jews and non-Jews, from protesting at his wedding Sunday night to Morel Malka, who was born Jewish.
Last week, Lehava, whose Hebrew initials stand for “Preventing Assimilation in the Holy Land,” published Mahmoud and Morel’s wedding invitation on their Facebook page and invited thousands of people to come to protest the wedding with “banners and bullhorns.”
Mansour petitioned the court to stop the protest out of concern that it would lead to violence and ruin his wedding.
On Sunday morning, Judge Iryah Heuman Mordechai ruled that the protest could take place at a distance of at least 200 meters from the wedding hall, in a parking lot next to the hall.
She also ruled that the sides cannot contact one another, even electronically, for 90 days. Mansour and his family have received threats from activists as well as messages of support since the story broke last week.
Mansour seemed relaxed and casual on the morning of his wedding in court. “I thank this organization, they gave us free publicity,” he told reporters at the court, according to Channel 2. “We live in true coexistence, and 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% Jews and 50% Arabs, and it doesn’t really matter — a human being is a human being.”
Mansour and Malka, who have been together for five years, live in Jaffa.
President Reuven Rivlin expressed his support for the couple on Sunday, blessing them with happiness and health.
“This couple decided to get married and to exercise their freedoms in a democratic state, and the incitement against them is outrageous and worrying,” he said in a statement. “Not everyone has to rejoice about their happy occasion, but everyone must respect it.” He added that the incitement against their wedding “erodes the shared democratic and Jewish foundation of Israel.”
However, Lehava director Bentzi Gupstein, standing outside the courtroom, disagreed.
“If you asked this Arab groom if he would want his sister to marry a Jewish man, I’m sure he would say no,” Gupstein said. “The racism comes from both sides, and the Jewish nation needs to stand guard to protect our holiness.”
Last week, Gupstein accused Morel of “marrying the enemy while the nation is at war.”
“The nation of Israel has fought for generations against the issue of assimilation,” right-wing activist and lawyer Itamar Ben Gvir, who represented Lehava, said outside the courtroom.
Last week, Mansour told reporters that he had hired 14 private security guards for the wedding to avoid confrontations with protesters, then later raised that number to 33 guards. The wedding hall in Rishon Lezion will pay for approximately half of the cost, but Mansour and Malka will need to pay at least NIS 13,000 for the other half.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that the police had received a request for permission to hold a protest outside the wedding hall and they were preparing for a demonstration of more than 50 people in accordance with the guidelines determined by the courts. “Police have stepped up patrols for this evening around the Rishon area,” he said. “Police will separate the sides and prevent any incidents between protesters and guests.”
Lehava has struggled to keep an online presence after Facebook erased the Lehava Facebook page on July 22 for not abiding by the social network’s standards, which prohibit inciting violence. The organization has since tried to open a number of pages that Facebook quickly shut down, including the page that originally published the wedding invitation, and encouraged people to stay updated about the protest through the Haredi news site Kikar Hashabbat.
When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, married his longtime non-Jewish girlfriend Priscilla Chan in 2012, Gupstein sent him a hate-filled letter condemning his intermarriage and comparing him to Nazis. “Golda Meir, who was Israel’s prime minister, said that any Jew who assimilates is essentially a partner to the Nazis’ work, since through assimilation you yourself are exterminating the continuation of the Jewish people,” he wrote to Zuckerberg, according to Israel National News.
Gupstein has also condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son for reportedly dating a non-Jewish Norwegian woman.