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Saving the Daughters of Israel From the Annihilation of Intermarriage

Demonstrators protesting the wedding of a Muslim and a Jew in Israel in August 2014. PHOTO: via Mondoweiss.net

By Jonathan Ofir | 15 November 2016

MONDOWEISS — Haaretz recently published Or Kashti’s article concerning the Israeli Jewish organization “Hemla” (which means “mercy”), which runs a “shelter” for female youths. “According to the organization, the shelter is geared toward ‘female youths from broken homes who are at risk of shmad’ – a Hebrew term that denotes coerced conversion to another religion”, notes Kashti.

One should not be in doubt as to who the villains who threaten to “coerce” these girls are. In a promotional flyer released two years ago, the head of Hemla, Elyakim Neiman, described intermarriage between Jewish women and Arab men as a “national plague.” He said, “We are doing our best to save these girls before they reach [Arab] villages and give birth to ‘Ahmad Ben Moshe.’” A promotional leaflet boasted that the woman who runs the shelter, Rachel Baranes, has dedicated her life to “saving the daughters of Israel from the claws of the Ishmaelites,” which is a term referring to ‘Arabs’.

An article published in 2009 in “Eretz Israel Shelanu” (Our Land of Israel), a newsletter associated with the radical right, describes Hemla’s boardinghouse as the only shelter for Jewish girls “rescued” from Arab villages.

This may all seem like a bizarre anti-miscegenation religious-nationalist fringe aberration, one which would be funded by donations from extremists. But here is the upshot: The Israeli Social Services Ministry massively funds the shelter, in fact funding half of its expenses costing 2.6 million shekels a year ($685,000). The Ministry has recently agreed to increase funding for the institution to 1.3 million shekels a year, doubling the level of its support since 2012.

To understand just how central the issue of anti-assimilation in Israel is, we may note comments by Member of Knesset Yair Lapid about it just over two years ago. A ‘centrist’ and ‘liberal,’ Lapid, interviewed on an Israel Waves radio program, found it important to state his essential honest view about this: “It would bother me if my son married a non-Jew… It would bother me greatly.” […]

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