(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein has barred Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu
from running for the position of Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel because of
derogatory statements he made in the past regarding the Arab
Earlier this month, the Attorney-General’s Office announced
that if Eliyahu formally declared his intention to run for the position, he
would be invited to a hearing with the attorney-general to explain his
In a letter of response addressed to the Attorney-General’s
Office after clarification of his statements was requested, Eliyahu wrote that
he did not make many of the remarks attributed to him and that some were
distorted by others.
“Some were never said by me, and some were said in
contexts that were radicalized and presented out of the Torah context in which
they were said,” Eliyahu wrote.
Eliyahu’s campaign staff in response
accused the attorney-general of harming democracy.
“On Tisha Be’av night
the attorney-general chose to trample on democracy. It seems that the
attorney-general, who has permitted serious acts of members of Knesset against
IDF soldiers and given support to the heads of the Islamic Movement, has decided
to hold an ad hoc tribunal against Rabbi Eliyahu and turn himself into a
prosecutor, judge and hangman,” Eliyahu’s office said in a statement to the
“Weinstein, who understands that a big majority on the electoral
committee will elect Rabbi Eliyahu, decided to break the rules and in an
unprecedented step, without authority, without a hearing or a verification of
the claims, created a new reality according to which a candidate who is not
liked the legal elite cannot enjoy the defense of the
Several appeals had been made to the attorney-general
asking him to prohibit Eliyahu from running because of what are considered
racist statements he made.
Eliyahu previously received the backing of
Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben- Dahan and other members of the
conservative wing of the Bayit Yehudi party.
“Following requests that
have reached the attorney-general regarding the candidacy of Rabbi Shmuel
Eliyahu for the position of chief rabbi, it has been decided that when the issue
becomes relevant the rabbi will be afforded a hearing on this matter,” the
Attorney- General’s Office said.Jeremy Sharon and JTA contributed to