I gotta tell you my jaw hit the floor when I began reading that Israeli local authorities are taking action to “rescue” young Jewish women who are dating Arab men.
I kid you not – In September ’09 the municipality of Petah Tikva near Tel Aviv announced it is establishing a special team of youth counsellors and psychologists to identify young Jewish women who are dating Arab men. It’s part of a wider move by Israeli organizations and residents to try and prevent interracial dating and marriage.
And they’re not the first – earlier this year in Pisgat Zeev, a large Jewish settlement amid Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, 36 Jewish male residents formed a vigilante-style patrol known as “Fire for Judaism” to stop Arab men from dating local Jewish girls.
Arab citizens make up a fifth of the Israeli population but a 2007 poll found that over 50% of Israeli Jews believed intermarriage should be equated with “national treason”.
Arab-Israeli Dating – How Common is it?
Segregated communities and separate education systems create few opportunities for young Arabs and Jews to mix as friends, let alone date. Even in the handful of “mixed cities”, Arab residents are usually confined to separate neighbourhoods.
What’s more, civil marriage is banned in Israel, meaning that in the rare cases Jews and Arabs wed, they have to leave the country for the ceremony. The marriage is then recognised on the couple’s return.
In an interesting article in the National Newspaper, Dr Yuval Yonay, a sociologist at Haifa puts it in a nutshell: “Separation between Jews and Arabs is so ingrained in Israeli society, it is surprising that anyone manages to escape these central controls.”
Too Close for Comfort?
For all the trouble in Israel, the Arab and Israeli cultures are indisputably similar. Strong family ties and hard work ethics resonate throughout both and the languages and cuisine are undeniably similar. Yet it would seem that Israelis view inter-dating as the worse thing a young Jew can do.
The latest move to block intermarriage via counselling was a direct response to news that two Jewish girls, one of whom was from Petah Tikva accompanied a group of young Arab men when they allegedly beat a Jewish man, Leonard Karp, to death on a Tel Aviv beach in August 2009.
The girls’ involvement with the Arab youths has revived general concern that the taboos against interracial dating are beginning to be ignored by some young people.
Mr Hakak, a spokesman for Petah Tikva explained that the municipality had created a hotline that parents and friends of the Jewish women could use to inform on them.
“We can’t tell the girls what to do but we can send a psychologist to their home to offer them and their parents advice,” he said.
Will it Ever End?
Last year, the Jewish town of Kiryat Gat, in southern Israel, launched a programme in schools in which Jewish girls were shown a video entitled Sleeping with the Enemy that describes mixed couples as an “unnatural phenomenon”.
In 2004, posters sprang up all over the northern town of Safed warning Jewish women that dating Arab men would lead to “beatings, hard drugs, prostitution and crime”.
Both campaigns were supported by Yad L’achim, a religious organisation, which runs an anti-assimilation team publicly dedicated to “saving” Jewish women.
According to its website, the organisation receives over 100 calls a month about Jewish women living with Arab men, both in Israel and the West Bank and responds by launching military-like rescues in co-ordination with the police and army.
“The Jewish soul is a precious, all-too-rare resource, and we are not prepared to give up on even a single one,” says the website.
Aren’t all souls precious in God’s eyes?