Jews, Arabs in Uproar over Rabbis’ Ruling

By Mohammed Mar’i – Ramallah

The Israeli and Arab uproar against a ruling by some 300 Jewish rabbis prohibiting the rental of homes to non-Jews, usually Arabs living inside Israel, rose on Thursday.

Noah Flug, chairman of the International Association of Holocaust Survivors, said “these rabbis need to retract their statement.”

Fifty influential Jewish rabbinic leaders on Tuesday released a controversial Halachic (traditional compendium of Jewish Law) ruling forbidding Jews from selling or renting homes to gentiles in predominantly Jewish areas in Israel.

The Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot said that an additional 220 rabbis serving almost all Israeli cities also signed the ruling. The 50 rabbis receive a state salary and are responsible for religious and ritual affairs in several cities, towns and rural regional councils across the country.

Flug says he was shocked by this revelation. “As someone who suffered as a Jew and underwent the Holocaust, I remember the German Nazis throwing Jews out of their apartments and city centers in order to create ghettos,” he told Yediot Ahronot.

“I remember how they wrote on benches that no Jews were allowed, and of course it was prohibited to sell or rent to Jews. We thought that in our country this wouldn’t happen. This is especially difficult for someone who went through the Holocaust.”

For its part, a group of public Israeli figures, intellectuals and academics have asked Justice Ministry to suspend any signatories to the ruling.

The group of signatories, which includes professors Yaron Ezrahi, Chaim Gans and Joseph Agassi, playwright Joshua Sobol and authors Sefi Rachlevsky and Yoram Kaniuk, approached Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein several weeks ago about taking action against Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu for issuing the same type of call.

Israeli President Shimon Peres issued a strongly worded statement against the rabbis.

Peres said that the rabbis were generating a moral crisis that ran counter to the essence of a Jewish and democratic state, and were thereby doing great harm to the state of Israel.

Ahmed Tibi, Knesset member from United Arab List party, said: “I am confident that the number of (such) rabbis will only increase. We are dealing with skinhead rabbis who are working against the Arabs.”

The Jewish-Arab rights group Ta’ayush also slammed the ruling saying, “We will not stand silent in the face of such racism!”

(Arab News)

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