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Leave Yair Netanyahu Alone!

The prime minister’s son’s love life is of no theological-historical significance

Liel Leibovitz
January 27, 2014
Yair Netanyahu and girlfriend Sandra Leikanger.(Facebook)
Yair Netanyahu and girlfriend Sandra Leikanger.(Facebook)

So Bibi’s kid is dating a Norwegian girl. So she’s not Jewish. So what.

To hear so, so many in Israel tell it, Yair Netanyahu’s blooming romance is a historical and theological tragedy. “If they get married,” said Yair’s uncle, Haggai Ben-Artzi, “I’ll walk around in the street and tear the hair off my head.” He then added that as long as his nephew is involved with a non-Jew, he’ll personally stop Yair from visiting the gravesites of his late grandparents, whose memory, Ben-Artzi thundered, the young man was disgracing by the simple act of locking lips with a shiksa.

Come on now.

If this was Game of Thrones, and if the young Norwegian woman stood, in the event of another Red Wedding, to become the Prime Ministeress of the Jewish state, the panic might have been justified. Had the office been hereditary, passing along from Bibi to Yair and then to his sons, fine. But Yair is a private person, no matter how prominent his father, and his love life, quite bluntly, is none of our business.

And if we insist on looking at this affair as a quarry for some precious symbolic ore, then let us use it as an opportunity to reject the most narrow-minded, exclusive, and intolerant interpretations of Jewish peoplehood. Let us say the only thing one ought to say to a young woman who has chosen to leave a country where the most significant threat to national security involves the sudden freezing of fish and elk and move to Israel instead, which is shalom and welcome and so nice to have you here. And let us do whatever we can to make sure that should this young woman ever wish to become Mrs. Netanyahu Junior, she could either live comfortably and without harassment as a non-Jewish citizen of Israel enjoying equal rights and responsibilities, or, should she so wish, undergo a meaningful and beautiful conversion, a far cry from the censorious process currently offered by the imperious chief rabbinate. Until then, nothing but mazal tov to the young couple.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.