Private lives, public debate: Tzachi Halevy and Lucy Aharish's marriage

Politicians who care about intermarriage should focus on a lot more than the choices of two individuals

News anchor Lucy Aharish [L] and Actor Tzahi Halevi [R] (photo credit: FACEBOOK / PR)
News anchor Lucy Aharish [L] and Actor Tzahi Halevi [R]
(photo credit: FACEBOOK / PR)
On Wednesday, under a billowing white canopy in the center of Israel, two famous Israelis pledged their love for one another.
While most weddings call for congratulations, this one also kindled a national conversation, with all sorts of well-known figures weighing in on the nuptials.
News of the wedding between news anchor Lucy Aharish and actor Tzachi Halevy shocked many Israelis, in part because the famous duo hid their romance from the public for four years.
But, undeniably, also in large part due to the fact that Aharish is an Arab-Israeli Muslim, and Halevy is Jewish. While this is far from the first Jewish-Muslim relationship in Israel, the pair’s fame added extra scrutiny to the nuptials. Many have posited that the wedding is the first celebrity marriage between an Israeli Jew and an Israeli Muslim.
Being in the limelight – Aharish is an anchor on Reshet 13 and Halevy is best known for his role on Fauda – always comes hand in hand with increased public examination. But the rhetoric leveled at the couple over the past few days has been vulgar and wildly inappropriate.
Opposition to intermarriage is nothing new. It’s a key tenet of the Jewish faith, and it’s a view held by the majority of Israelis. Most Jewish Israeli parents want their children to marry Jews. But none of the people speaking out this week are the parents of Halevy or Aharish. Neither are they the couple’s brothers or sisters or cousins. They’re strangers who are publicly attacking two people who happened to fall in love.
If those like MKs Oren Hazan (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Bayt Yehudi) really cared about intermarriage, they have a lot more to be concerned about than Aharish and Halevy. Interfaith weddings among American Jews have skyrocketed in recent decades, with studies indicating that more than a whopping 70% of non-Orthodox US Jews marry outside the faith. A study by the Israel American Council showed that the longer Israeli Jews live outside the country, the more likely they are to marry non-Jews. And in Israel, growing numbers of couples are choosing to marry outside of the Jewish state so as to avoid the Chief Rabbinate – which allows only religious weddings between two members of the same faith.
Hazan – about as far from a role model as possible – doesn’t regularly rail against the scourge of global intermarriage. But he did use the spectacle of a celebrity coupling to insert himself crassly into the conversation – and score political points with a certain segment of the population.
Whatever your opinions on intermarriage, Aharish and Halevy have chosen to spend their lives together, and the choice is theirs alone. Politicians who seek to prevent Jews from intermarrying should focus more on policy issues – working to counter Israelis who choose to live abroad, trying to make the rabbinate a more welcoming body – and less on two individuals and their decision.