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.