A mixed Jewish-Arab wedding that has garnered unprecedented media attention due to virulent criticism from anti-assimilation activists, who announced they would demonstrate during the ceremony, went ahead on Sunday night with hundreds of policemen deployed to prevent clashes.
Bride Morel Malka, 23, a Jewish convert to Islam, and her groom, Mahmoud Mansour, 26, of Jaffa, were wed while outside the hall two demonstrations took place: one by several hundred 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.
Malka’s father has said that he opposes the union and did not plan to attend the ceremony.
Since the story broke last week, Mansour and his family have received threats from activists as well as messages of support.
The furor over the wedding drew attention from top public figures.
Health Minister Yael German 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 the incitement against their wedding was like “rodents gnawing under the shared democratic and Jewish foundation of Israel.”
Last week, the Lehava anti-assimilation group, whose Hebrew initials stand for “Preventing Assimilation in the Holy Land,” published Mahmoud and Morel’s wedding invitation on their Facebook page and invited hundreds of people to come to protest the wedding with “banners and bullhorns.”
Lehava director Bentzi Gopstein accused Morel of “marrying the enemy while the nation is at war.”