The recent wedding of two Israeli celebrities, "Fauda" star Tzachi Halevi (Jewish) and TV news host Lucy Aharish (Muslim), rekindled the age-old debate over assimilation, and its relevancy in 21st century Israel. Though mixed marriages are a daily affair in Israel, like in most places it's not discussed with much vigor until celebrities are involved.
The sharp political senses of Oren Hazan, a young and colorful Likud MK, told him this is an opportunity he couldn't miss. "I do not blame Lucy Aharish, who seduced a Jewish soul to hurt our country by preventing more Jewish offspring from continuing the Jewish dynasty. On the contrary, I invite her to convert. I do accuse Tzachi 'theMuslimLevi' who took 'Fauda' too literally – get real bro … enough with this assimilation!" Hazan wrote on his Facebook page.
The knee-jerk reaction of left-wingers quickly followed. "Congratulations and happiness to the awesome couple," tweeted Zionist Camp (Labor) party MK Sheli Yechimovich. "Nothing is new under the sun," she continued. "The deathmongers, we remember, thought that only pure-blooded have a right to exist, and whosoever marries a Moglegite is considered a blood traitor, and excuse me for using such a mild metaphor."
The daily Haaretz offered a more "balanced" reaction: "The decision whom to marry is no one's business but the couple. At the same time, it is the right of a Jew to adhere to his uniqueness without being charged with racism." Having said that, however, the same writer diagnosed psychopathic tendencies in Hazan's behavior.
Bringing the reader up to speed, Hazan's post refers to "Fauda," an Israeli TV series telling the story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from both sides via a love story between an Israeli special forces operative, Doron, and a Palestinian doctor, Shirin. Yechimovich, it should be pointed out, compares Hazan to the Nazis with their notion of pure blood. Many similar attacks on Hazan only made him dig his heels in deeper. "Shame on you," he told them. "It is not me whom you attack, you attack and hurt the Jewish people. Assimilation is prohibited. We are small in size, and if we fail to protect our peoplehood, we will disappear!"
Whether or not Hazan's reaction could have been more sophisticated doesn't diminish his simple and straightforward conclusion regarding the end result of assimilation. And that's why Yechimovich's ugly response to him is not representative of what most Israelis think on the matter.
The decision by Yair Lapid, head of the centrist party Yesh Atid, to step into this fray demonstrates that, one way or another, politicians need to address this issue to remain attractive to their constituents. Speaking on the Friday evening TV show "Weekly Portion," Lapid addressed the importance of Jewish peoplehood from what one might call the more secular viewpoint.
Lapid brought up his father, a Holocaust survivor who went on to head the secular-liberal Shinui party from 1999-2006, noting that the "god" his father believed in was not Jewish. But atheist or not, Lapid continued, Jews should accept the notion of uniqueness, even if it is reduced to a calling to live as decent people.
In an Army Radio interview, Lapid further broached the topic, stating bluntly, "The Jewish people are small in size … I prefer that the number of Jews grow rather than diminish." Concerning Hazan's contentious Facebook post, Lapid objected to attacking anyone over getting involved in a mixed marriage. It is Lapid's minimalist view of "election" that best represents that of most Israelis who live on the secular-atheist spectrum.
PHOTO: Muslim Arab news anchor Lucy Aharish is popular with many Israelis, but they still weren't thrilled about her marrying a Jewish husband. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)