Posts Tagged ‘israel’
The Times of Israel is one of many people reporting on the controversy apparently awakened in Israel by the news that Yair Netanyahu, son of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was involved in a relationship with a non-Jewish woman.
Yair Netanyahu is “spitting on the grave of his grandfather and grandmother,” Dr. Hagai Ben-Artzi, brother of Sara Netanyahu, said Monday of his nephew’s relationship with a non-Jewish Norwegian woman.
News that the prime minister’s son, who is 23, is dating Sandra Leikanger, 25, was first reported by the Norwegian daily Dagen. The tall, svelte blonde met the younger Netanyahu at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, where the two study.
[. . .]
Earlier on Monday, ultra-Orthodox Shas MK Arye Deri responded to news of the relationship by saying, “If God forbid it’s true, then woe to us, woe to us.”
Deri told the Kol Barama radio station the relationship was no mere personal matter because Netanyahu is a “symbol of the Jewish people.”
“I know friends of mine who invest tens of millions and more, hundreds of millions to fight assimilation in the world,” Deri said.
By contrast, Rabbi Amnon Bazak of the Har Etzion yeshiva defended the prime minister and expressed the hope that should Yair choose to wed his present girlfriend, Leikanger would undergo a conversion to Judaism prior to the nuptials.
[. . .]
The Israeli organization Lehava, which says it aims “to prevent assimilation in the Holy Land,” called on Netanyahu on Sunday “to prevent this relationship.”
“Your grandchildren, as you know, will not be Jewish,” Lehava director Bentzi Gopshtain warned the Israeli premier in a Facebook post.
1. It’s worth noting that Netanyahu’s failure to defend his son’s relationship in public marks him as not a very good father.
2. It’s also worth noting that very many Israelis find this abhorrent. To wit:
Yossi Sarid, a former Israeli education minister and onetime leader of the secular-rights party Meretz, called the younger Netanyahu’s love life a “private matter.” But he said the uproar among the religious was “nonsense.”
“It’s not fair. You can’t expect fairness from those people,” Sarid said. “They don’t like non-Jews. They don’t like non-Orthodox Jews. They are behaving as fanatics everywhere behave.”
3. It’s also worth noting that this has become a problem that has become more acute in recent years, as immigration has introduced people of multiple religious backgrounds, few of which are strictly Jewish enough to suit the ultra-Orthodox, to Israel.
Noah Slepkov, an associate fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute, said the debate reflects changes taking place within Israel.
While intermarriage has long been a “huge deal” in the United States, he said, where roughly half of American Jews marry outside the faith, it has been a nonissue in Israel because Jews and Arabs almost never marry.
But that has begun to change, due to an influx of foreign workers and the trend of Israelis studying and working abroad in an age of globalization. “It’s certainly a trend that’s at the beginning,” he said, but one that nonetheless can make conservative Israelis feel threatened.
He said the criticism of Netanyahu’s son was counterproductive in a country that increasingly finds itself isolated.
4. It’s further worth noting that Israel is the only high-income democratic state I know of that has laws forbidding intermarriage across religious–hence ethnic–boundaries, Greece having abolished its laws giving marriage over entirely to clerics in 1983 and Lebanon not quite counting as a democracy.
5. Imagine, for a moment, if the Norwegian media was in an uproar because the son of the Norwegian prime minister was in an intimate relationship with an Israeli Jewish woman. What would this say about Norway?
6. Here’s a thesis: so long as Israel maintains these laws, it’s going to be incapable of peace. How is it possible to respect someone if you want to use the state to keep them, or anyone like them from joining your family? How, if you exclude people of other backgrounds from your intimate communities on general principle, can you really empathize with them, truly like them as opposed to tolerate them? And how tolerant are you, really, if you don’t intervene as other people force their particular choices on everyone?
7. It won’t necessarily matter that Israel does so, since if anything its neighbours–all countries which also ban intermarriage–are even further down the rabbit hole of state-enforced ethnoreligious purity than Israel is.