The morning after a controversial wedding between a Muslim man and a Jewish convert to Islam, Finance Minister Yair Lapid said that he is against intermarriage and assimilation.
Speaking on Galei Israel radio, Lapid said, “It bothers me, I admit. I say that if tomorrow my son came to me and said, ‘Dad, I want you to meet Rona, not Rina, and she’s Russian Orthodox or Catholic and we’re getting married and the kids won’t be Jewish’ — would that bother me? It would bother me greatly. I think that the Jewish people is small, I think we have a tradition, I think it needs to be protected, and it bothers me.”
Later in the interview, Lapid expressed his opposition to the actions of right-wing activists who picketed the wedding in Rishon Lezion. “When I look at the people who demonstrated yesterday outside this wedding — they’re not bringing much honor to the Jewish people. This is an ugly group and this was an ugly demonstration, and the nation that suffered more than any other nation needs to show far more tolerance toward the other, even if it doesn’t approve of his actions.”
Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich said on the same program that she agreed with every word uttered by Lapid, and that it was a rare occurrence for her.
The furor over the wedding drew attention from other top public figures.
Health Minister Yael German, of Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, offered her best wishes to the bride and groom. “May you have many years of love, happiness, and tolerance,” she wrote in a statement Sunday. “I hope your wedding is another step toward transforming Israeli society into a more tolerant and pluralistic society.”
President Reuven Rivlin also expressed his support for the couple, 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.”
The president added that “incitement” against the wedding was like “rodents gnawing under the shared democratic and Jewish foundation of Israel.”
Bride Morel Malka, 23, and Mahmoud Mansour, 26, of Jaffa, were wed while outside the hall two demonstrations took place: one by several hundred Lehava protesters against their union, and the other by a group of dozens who turned up to show their support for the couple.
Four anti-assimilation protesters were arrested after they tried to approach the hall in violation of a court order, which stated that they could not come within 200 meters of the celebrations.
The counter-protesters brought balloons and flowers to add to the merriment.
Hundreds of police were deployed to separate between the rival demonstrations, and security guards carefully checked the more than 600 guests’ credentials and invitations before letting them in.
The wedding celebrations began in the afternoon, when Malka went to Mansour’s home to meet her groom, as is the Arab custom. Hundreds of friends and local residents turned up to take part in the event.
“I am happy and moved,” Malka said to reporters.
The groom’s mother wished the young couple well and told the media that, along with their happiness, she wants many grandchildren.
Since the story broke last week, Mansour and his family have received threats from activists as well as messages of support.
Stuart Winer and Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.