October 11, 2018 / 3:11 PM / 2 months ago

Celebrity Jewish-Arab wedding stirs mixed feelings in Israel

Lucy Aharish and Tsahi Halevi pose for a photo at their wedding party in Hadera, Israel October 11, 2018. REUTERS/Meggie Vilensky

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A surprise celebrity wedding bridging Israel’s Jewish-Muslim divide drew mixed public reaction on Thursday in a country where such inter-marriage is extremely rare.

Wednesday’s nuptials of Tsahi Halevi, an Arabic-fluent Jewish actor, and Lucy Aharish, a Muslim anchor on a top Hebrew news show, followed a four-year romance that, friends said, they had kept secret to avoid falling foul of cultural sensitivities.

“We Are Signing a Peace Accord,” the couple joked on their wedding invitation, quoted by the Israel Hayom newspaper.

The decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict has often fed tensions between Israel’s majority Jews and the 20 percent Arab minority. According to the most recent national marriage data available, for 2015, just 23 out of some 58,000 weddings were between Arabs and Jews.

Israel’s best-selling daily Yedioth Ahronoth wished bride and groom “Mabrouk” - Arabic for “congratulations” - on its front page, writing the word in Hebrew transliteration.

But the marriage was rued by Arye Deri, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who serves as Israeli interior minister, a role that oversees the country’s population registry.

“It’s their own private affair. But, as a Jew, I have to tell you that I’m against such things because we must preserve the Jewish people,” Deri said in an interview on Israel’s Army Radio. “(Their) children will grow up, go to school and later want to get married, and then they’ll face difficult problems.”

Both bride and groom have had public brushes with geopolitics.

Halevi is a former undercover commando in the Palestinian territories - a role he re-enacted for the hit Netflix series “Fauda”. Aharish had complained, in media interviews, of suffering discrimination in Israel as well as pressure from her family over the prospect of her marrying outside of Islam.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller

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