Inter-racial dating taboo leaves Israeli society divided

Inter-racial dating is a taboo in Israel. In a Jerusalem suburb there are special patrol groups that prevent Arab men mixing with Jewish women, and couples who mutually choose to rebel are ostracized.

A Jewish Jerusalem suburb Pisgat Ze’ev in Northern Jerusalem is surrounded by Arab neighborhoods, and there are hardly any signs that a culture of tolerance is being cultivated. Vigilante-style Jewish patrol groups, calling themselves “Fire For Judaism” stand watch outside the local shopping mall. Their mission is to prevent Arab men mixing with local Jewish girls.

The municipality is so afraid of inter-racial dating that it has created a 24-hour hotline where parents and friends can phone to rat on Jewish girls breaking this taboo. A specially trained team of counselors and psychologists is on standby to rescue them.

“It is important to safeguard our traditions, culture, history and identity because without these, who are we? From my experience I can say that the chances for a healthy relationship between an Israeli Jewish woman and an Arab man are very, very low. It is because of the great differences between these two cultures,” Alina from Yad L’Achim organization explained.

The most recent case involves an Arab man who posed as a Jewish bachelor. A Jewish woman agreed to have sex with him – but after she found out he was an Arab, and not a Jew, she filed a police complaint.

The courts took the case so seriously that Sabbar Kashur has now been convicted of rape by deception and sentenced to 18 months in prison. The judge said he had an obligation to protect the public from sophisticated criminals who could mislead innocent victims. Kashnur denies pretending to be Jewish and is going to appeal his conviction.

Arabs make up a fifth of Israel’s population, but relationships between Arabs and Jews are rare. Former Minister for Jerusalem Affairs in the Palestinian Authority Ziad Abu Zayyad says fights break out almost weekly in night clubs and other public places over the matter. It is not religion, he says – it is racism.

“There are Jewish gangs that are against any relationships between Jewish girls and non-Jewish men and they hunt Jewish girls. Even those who go out to a pub or to a restaurant or anywhere with an Arab guy and threaten them and force them to break the relations with Arab guys,” the former minister said.

One inter-racial couple told RT that in the two years they have been together, they have never been threatened physically. He is Muslim, she is Jewish. Now, however, they are thinking about leaving Israel because they say it is simply too difficult.

“When my family found out, they were very adamant about cutting me off on every level for acting as a traitor to everybody and for being Israeli and making that choice,” the woman told RT.

Israeli parliamentarians are considering a law that requires prospective Israeli citizens to declare loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish, democratic state”. Arab Israelis are furious – most refuse to swear allegiance to a state they believe explicitly excludes and marginalizes them.

Dana Pugach, head of the Noga Center for Victims of Crime, thinks it would not have made a difference had a Jewish man pretended to be an Arab to entice an Arab woman to have a romantic relationship with him.

If it was brought into court, I don’t think it would have been different,” Pugach said. “The first case, the proceeding that we had last year, was of a prominent Jewish person who misled very poor Jewish and non-Jewish women to believe that he would help them financially [in exchange for sex].”

Watch the full interview with Dana Pugach

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Meanwhile, political analyst Gideon Levy says the issue of deception is only an excuse to cover-up a story of racism and “male chauvinism.”

[Deception] was not the issue,” Levy said. “The real issue was that he was a Muslim, but pretended to be a Jew. And this is the sub-text of the whole thing.”

Watch the full interview with Gideon Levy

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