President Reuven Rivlin has risked the wrath of Jewish purists and racists by posting a notice on his Facebook page wishing peace and joy to controversial couple Mahmoud Mansour and Morel Malka on the occasion of their marriage.
For the two, who met five years ago, it was love at first sight, and they knew immediately that they would eventually get married. The groom, as his name suggests, is a Muslim. The bride was born Jewish, but recently converted to Islam.
However this has not stopped Lehava, a group dedicated to preventing intermarriage from trying to stop this one from taking place.
Both the bride and the groom have been subjected to harassment, as has the owner of the Rishon Lezion wedding hall where the couple were scheduled to celebrate their union on Sunday night. The bride’s father was opposed to the marriage, but could do nothing to persuade his daughter to change her mind.
When President Reuven Rivlin, a staunch defender of democracy, learned that Lehava was planning to demonstrate outside the banquet hall, he wrote on his Facebook page that the red line that runs between freedom of expression and protest and incitement has been crossed.
He noted that the couple, in deciding to get married, exercised their freedom to do so in a democratic country. Demonstrations of manifestations of incitement against them are both infuriating and worrying, he wrote.
Regardless of his own views on intermarriage, or those of anyone else, he continued, not everyone has to be happy for the young couple, but everyone has to respect their decision.
There are many difficult disputes within Israeli society, Rivlin added, but there is no room for violence, incitement and racism in the Jewish and democratic State of Israel. Racist expressions undermine the foundations of a joint Jewish and democratic society, Rivlin stated. He concluded by wishing Mahmoud and Morel health, joy and happiness.
Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court ruled on Sunday that Lehava could protest the wedding, but at a location 200 meters from the wedding hall, chosen by the police.
The couple has hired 14 security guards for the wedding celebration.