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Yair Netanyahu & His Non-Jewish Girlfriend

Yair Netanyahu & His Non-Jewish Girlfriend

Why would anyone care if he’s dating a Gentile?


The Israeli media went into one of its periodic feeding frenzies this week over reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's oldest son Yair has a non-Jewish girlfriend. Gentile media around the world gleefully reported the faux hand-wringing in Israel.

In a world in which hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Jews are in some level of "romantic involvement," with non-Jews, Yair Netanyahu's love life is, by any rational standard, a non-story. In America today, more than four out of five marriages involving non-Orthodox Jews are intermarriages, according to a survey by Pew Research Center.

So why would anyone profess to be distressed by Yair Netanyahu's alleged romantic interests? (The PM's bureau, incidentally, issued a statement that Yair and the Norwegian woman identified as his girlfriend are nothing more than study partners at the Herziliya Interdisciplinary Center.)

The Jews are a small and ancient people. Their continued existence, despite the rise of those determined to destroy them in every generation, is history's most prolonged miracle. Even today, Israel is the only country in the developed world not on the path of demographic suicide, in which elderly retirees will nearly equal younger workers in the foreseeable future.

For believing Jews, Jewish survival reflects God's choice of the Jewish people to be the primary vehicle through which He reveals himself to the world. Jews have held fast to that relationship for more than three millennia. Across the globe and in every historical period, great scholars and simple peasants have willingly given their lives rather than give up their relationship with God.

When a Jewish male marries a non-Jew, that unbroken, millennial chain of ancestors is severed for good. His children are not considered Jewish in Jewish law. And if a Jewish woman marries a non-Jewish man, it is virtually guaranteed statistically that her offspring will cease to be Jewish within one or two generations. In America, three-quarters of children of intermarriage marry Gentiles. Only 14% of intermarried homes describe their religious orientation has primarily Jewish, according to the sociologist Bruce Phillips during the mid-1990s, and 60% of those have Christmas trees.

Bluntly, the non-Orthodox segments of the Jewish people outside of Israel will cease to exist in one or two generations through intermarriage. The end of so many family lines extending back to antiquity provokes sadness.

Yet intermarriage is the consequence rather than the cause of a more fundamental change. Most modern Jews have lost connection with the distinctive beliefs and practices that have always characterized the Jewish people, in particular the belief that the Jewish people were chosen for a unique historical mission.

Without the belief in a particular purpose for the Jewish people, it makes perfect sense to look for marriage partners from among those with shared political views or tastes in movies. The real tragedy is that "Jewish" constitutes such a small part of the self-identity of most Jews today.

The decision to marry only another Jew is one to make shared spiritual goals paramount in one's marriage.

What Orthodox Jews mourn when their assimilated brethren intermarry is the finality of a step that cuts off them and their offspring of from the possibility of rediscovering what it means to be a Jew.

Size is not a Jewish standard of measure. The Bible itself promises that we will be the smallest of the nations. But the loss of any Jew is nevertheless a tragedy. For at Sinai, the Jewish people were not only given a collective mission. Each soul that stood there or would descend from those who stood at Sinai was created with the potential to reveal, within the framework of the Torah's commandments, some aspect of God by virtue of his or her unique combination of talents and challenges to be overcome and particular familial and historical situation. The loss of that potential is a diminution of the entire Jewish people.

Many non-Jews, and increasingly many Jews as well, find Judaism's stress on endogamy to be racist. That's nonsense. Membership in the Jewish people is open to any human being who is willing to take on the same commitment as those who stood at Sinai. Judaism does not sanctify gene pools but rather commitment to a mission.

One need not be Jewish to serve God. Judaism is unique among major monotheistic religions in not viewing eternal reward as contingent on becoming Jewish. Yet Jews have always believed that they were chosen for a unique mission.

For those in whom that sense of historical mission still burns the case for endogamy is a matter not just of Jewish law but logic. A sense of mission – especially one that has always entailed a high price, along with its rewards – can only be transmitted consistently from generation to generation by two parents who share a common vision.

The decision to marry only another Jew is one to make shared spiritual goals paramount in one's marriage.

Don't all religions advocate the same, according to their specific beliefs?

This op-ed originally appeared on

February 2, 2014

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Visitor Comments: 45

(29) Beatrice, December 11, 2016 3:19 AM

better inclusion and dialogue

i'm the senior adult child of intermarriage. The person i chose as partner was also-it turned out that his mother didn't even tell him that she was Jewish. Many of us have struggled with all kinds o identity issues., as well as pressures from our families, while also being denied religious education. Some of us have also been subject to Left brainwashing. While true, people were persecuted in the McCarthy era., my parents included., the lack of religious grounding and support had consequences. Soviet Russia was both dogmatic in its rejection of all religion and any capitalist or business sense., together with some parents being harassed by the FBI to the point of suicide. its not to be trampled into silence. Conclusion: parents and non-parents, elders, rabbis, Jewish community need to be more accepting, less dogmatic in their 'expectations' of children and other Jews., re-instate Jewish social services., less demanding to join the present capitalist investment bankers., and admit Jewish mothering and love to all sectors of interaction.

(28) Peggy Finston MD, September 7, 2015 12:49 AM

At least in the NYTimes, Yair's love-life is "nothing personal."

My "Israel Alerts" from that paper showcases the staff's tenacity in creating negative spins on Anything Israel. Last week, they reported on Israeli settler terrorist from 1994. A few months before it was the PM's son.
Theoretically, another paper could have reported that relationship as evidence of the PM family and Israeli democracy and tolerance...but I'm not holding my breath.
Also, I believe Jews will prevail American Materialism and intermarriage. Pew Research statistics are for politicians and don't tell the story. People are running on empty here and they know something is missing.

(27) Binyamin, February 16, 2014 3:06 PM

Shows Yeshiva Students Indeed major Defense of Israel

I recall the many strong proud declarations of Israeli politicians that the Jews are in their anscestral Heritage in Israel and will always defend themselves against all threats. The fierce debate about the IDF and drafting Yeshivas students now in Israel. Of course Israeli soldiers are HEROS and those that rally with Terrorists and those that advocate harming Jews SHOULD BE LOUDLY OPENLY CONDEMNED. At the same time - pf course the Torah of the Yeshivas protects Israel as it has stood up to repeated attacks by larger and more armed enemies decade after decade. It is NOT because "we are smarter" or "we are more sphisticated". Its because G-d helps us. More than bravada it is Torah and TOrah observers that ensure a JEWISH future. I experienced a work place where there are Jews married to nonJews who have non Jewish grand children , including people that were in the IDF. It is also understood college campus type of behavior may be more norm in non religous dorms, but can not be forced on religous people, at least not in a democracy and shuld not be in a Jewish state.

(26) Norman Elliott, February 9, 2014 4:33 PM

That this first ran on a Gentile forum, pegs it as Jewish hasbara

I am constantly impressed by the ability of Jewish genius to rise to the occasion and blunt damaging scandal. Judaism is not racism.

(25) Rev.Borris Jovanovich, February 8, 2014 11:58 PM

Yair Netanyahu & His Non-Jewish Girlfriend

I am partly Jewish on my mother side.Yet it does surprise me that many do forget placing our heritage in same bucket ,creates genetic failure in to offspring ,or people forgetting that ??G.D Almighty knows our tomorrow ,and not only today...

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