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50 Israeli Rabbis issue ruling forbidding renting of homes to Arabs

Rabbis signing the public letter are state employees; so far, not one of them was prosecuted or fired

The Israeli media is reporting this morning that some 50 rabbis have signed a declaration calling for Jews not to let Arabs hire apartments in their communities. The Rabbis expressed support for Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu of Safed, who was the first to issue such ruling.

The rabbis’ declaration states that anyone renting his apartment to an Arab is doing harm – both in the eyes of god and for his fellow men. The Rabbis state that it is not allowed to have Arabs hire apartments in Jewish communities outside Israel as well. The Letter urges Jews to boycott anyone renting apartments to Arabs.

From Haaretz (my bold):

The rabbis’ letter, which was first published months ago and reprinted in October, urges Jewish owners of apartments to reconsider renting their properties to Arabs since it would deflate the value of their homes as well as those in the neighborhood.

“Their way of life is different than that of Jews,” the letter stated. “Among [the gentiles] are those who are bitter and hateful toward us and who meddle into our lives to the point where they are a danger.”

The rabbis also urge neighbors of anyone renting or selling property to Arabs to caution that person. After delivering the warning, the neighbor is then encouraged to issue notices to the general public and inform the community.

“The neighbors and acquaintances [of a Jew who sells or rents to an Arab] must distance themselves from the Jew, refrain from doing business with him, deny him the right to read from the Torah, and similarly [ostracize] him until he goes back on this harmful deed,” the letter reads.

Like Rabbi Eliyahu of Safed, the Rabbis signing the letter are serving as “local rabbis” (rabbis in charge of the religious services provided by their municipality), meaning they are state employees that receive their salary from taxpayer money. Among the signers of the letter were rabbis from Rishon Letzion, Ramat Hasharon, Hertzlia Kfar Sava and Hulon (all of them suburbs of Tel Aviv), Jerusalem, and other towns and settlements.

This is more than a racist statement. This is a racist policy, carried out by members of the municipal bureaucracy in Israel. It’s being done in public, and so far – with not one of these rabbis having to pay a price for their actions. Dealing with this issue becomes a test for Israeli society and for the Israeli government.

UPDATES: MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) and MK Ahmed Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) calling to fire, prosecute racist Rabbis. But who will be the first coalition member to speak?

UPDATE II: The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) issued this statement following the Rabbis’ rulling:

“Rabbis who are civil servants have an obligation to the entire public, including Israel’s Arab citizens. It is unthinkable that they would use their public status to promote racism and incitement. Human rights day will be marked around the world this Friday and it should serve as a reminder to all our leaders of their responsibility to the citizens of the State and their obligation to take action against racism and similar worrying trends”.

In November, ACRI intervened before Justice Minister Yaakov Ne’eman, urging him to remove Zafed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu from his public post, following his racist remarks against Arabs and his support of a campaign calling on Zafed residents not to rent out apartments to Arab students.

The organization is preparing a similar intervention against the above case.

UPDATE III: PM Netanyahu also condemned the Rabbis’ ruling, saying it was racist and offending. Yet one could expect of the head of the executive authority to do something – not just speak.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Natan Brill

      A couple of weeks ago you published a translation of an interview with the Safed Rabbi. I can’t find it. Could you point me to it? Thanks.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben Israel

      Just out of curiosity, I wonder how many Arabs live on Kibbutzim? How many live in Ramat Aviv, that bastion of “progressive” values where noted humanitarians such as Shimon Peres lives? How many Arab neighbors does Noam Sheizaf have? How many Arab neighbors do the rest of the “972″ group have?
      In another vein, Israel TV is another well-known home of “progressive” values. How many Arab entertainers appear on it and work behind the scenes? How many Arab journalists are employed by the “progressive” newspaper Ha’aretz? How many Arab mayors have Haifa and Tel Aviv had?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben Israel – just out of curiosity, could you address the news itself? Are you for this call? Are you against it? Do you think it’s racism (very simple question, I’d appreciate a simple answer)? Why even try to evade it and spin it in a totally different direction?

      Reply to Comment
      • jehoeda

        we cant reaally know if it is rascist cause we dont know his intention. if his intention is protecting his peoples identity(1 in 4 not jewish is a lot) its absolutly not rascist

        Reply to Comment
    4. natan – this post was removed by its author.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben Israel

      Ami-I am going to tell you what my understanding of Jewish law is….
      In Eretz Israel it is forbidden to sell land to non-Jews. Is that racism? Maybe it is, in the sense you mean. I can tell you honestly there are things in Jewish law that don’t correspond with modern sensibilities. Now, we can talk about things like slavery and polygamy which are allowed in Jewish law, yet the fact that modern values view these things negatively does affect Jewish law and so religious Jews are not allowed to have more than one wife today and Jews can not own slaves anymore.

      The fact that there is a national struggle going on between Jews and Arabs also has an affect on how the Rabbis view these things.

      But, let’s be honest…you are aware that Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have a death penalty for Arabs selling land to Jews. Is that racism? Or is it “understandable”? Are Israeli Arabs willing to sell land and homes they own to Jews? Yossi Gurwitz told me he has Jewish friends who live in Arab areas. I don’t know if this means they own land or are simply renting, I don’t know if this is in Arab towns or villages….but I do know Arabs don’t want their land going to “outsiders”. Is that “racism”?
      Then we can go back to the question I asked above. Is the fact that Kibbutzim traditionally did not invite Arabs to be members racism? (I have no idea how many Arabs are members of kibbutzim but I am pretty sure the number is close to or equal to zero). Is the fact that Israel television has few Arabs on screen due to a decision by a board of Rabbis, or it an unofficial policy? Is there a difference? Same with the lack of Arab reporters at Ha’aretz.
      In the Middle East people are identified by ethnic affiliation. This is different than Western views of things but it is a fact. All the Arab states of the area define themselves as “Arab” and most, if not all, identify themselves as “Islamic” to one degree or another. So what I am saying is that what the Rabbis say is pretty much in line what the large majority of people, both Jews (INCLUDING “progressive” Jews) and Arabs think in this part of the world.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Ben Israel – as far as I know, the state of Israel is not ruled by halachic law. although we’re probably heading there. if halacha or sharia are to be the law, then fine – you’re right. it’s legal. but that’s not the case now.
      and yes, it’s racism. very simple.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Klaas

      @Ben Israel

      The Palestines are occupied by Israel.

      In holland when we were occupied by the germans, help to germans was seen traitors and would be punisched.

      Now you see antisemitisme come back to the whole world just because Israel keeps going on with the occupation and kolonisation.

      The Truth is The Jewish State Israel dont want Peace.

      Bad think is jews all over the world have to pay for it

      Reply to Comment
    8. Ben Israel- seems to me you just justified this Israeli policy by explaining that Jordan and the PA carry out a similar one.
      Is it the afterlife? have we stopped discriminating against arabs in education funds, municipality funds and employment opportunities that we are now mad at them for not participating in Israeli social life as much as the jews or that we are comfortable enough with blaming them for remaining outsiders?
      There are buses in Israel where women have to sit on the back- in the demo against this policy protesters were holding signs “this isn’t Iran” – I hate to be the one to burst this bubble, but this stuff doesn’t even happen in Iran…
      If we had free-media maybe arabs could work for it, if we had free employment opportunities maybe they could get work. But your argument is the same as blaming women for why their male superiors pay them less (its called- zero accountability).
      Just a little self-insight, all I’m saying.

      Reply to Comment
    9. [...] Wednesday night’s protest in front of the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem condemning the rabbis’ letter, the message was clear: 1935 is here, referring to the legislation of the Nuremburg Laws in Nazi [...]

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    10. [...] Shortly after Neil left, a group of several dozen Israeli Rabbis issued a religious ruling prohibiting the sale or rental of apartments in Israel to Arabs.  Their ruling caused a huge uproar in both the secular and religious communities here, with a [...]

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    11. [...] zijn voorbeelden ten overvloede. Zoals van 50 rabbi´s die een brief schrijven over het verhuren van woningen aan Arabische migranten… Of 30 orthodoxe rabbi´s die een racistische brief schrijven over het daten van Arabieren met [...]

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