New ‘rabbis’ letter’ targets ‘hostile elements’

Latest version drops rhetoric against non-Jews; Haredi rabbis don’t sign, leaving only national religious support.

January 14, 2011 03:37
2 minute read.
Protest in TA against preceived racist letter.

protest against racist letter_311. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

After months of rumors and drafts, the rabbinic statement initiated by Rabbi Haim Druckman, one of the most prominent national religious leaders, modifying Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu’s prohibition to rent or sell homes to non-Jews by instead calling to act against “hostile elements,” surfaced on Thursday.

“We dissent from what was perceived through the recently published letter, as though non-Jewish citizens should be discriminated against,” the statement read. “The State of Israel is committed to treating all its citizens equally, an attitude that is anchored in the Torah as well as in the state’s laws.”

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“But,” the statement continued, “Israel is a Jewish state... and should act against hostile elements that wish to exploit the principle of egalitarianism between loyal citizens, to realize their ‘right of return’ and expel us from our country. These hostile elements are flowing funds [into deals for buying homes] in order to assume control over lands and assets in Israel.”

“We treat every human with all due respect, but cannot allow this ‘right of return’... and to be tempted by greed to rent or sell apartments to any hostile element,” the statement read. It also stated the Zionist goals of “Judaizing” the Galilee and Negev, as well as any other site in Israel.

Besides Druckman, who heads the Or Etzion hesder and the Bnei Akiva yeshivot, the latest statement was signed by Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Ya’akov Ariel, head of the modern Orthodox rabbinical organization Tzohar; Rabbi David Stav of Shoham, who is also the chairman of Tzohar; Rabbi Tzfania Drori of Kiryat Shmona; Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of Beit El and none other than Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu himself.

Ariel and Stav had spoken out against Eliahu’s statement, primarily the way it hit the public, though they stressed the threat of the “hostile elements” seeking to usurp the Land of Israel from Jews.

Eliahu’s statement, recently signed by nearly fifty haredi and national religious city rabbis, created a huge public debate, but resulted in no concrete legal or disciplinary actions, despite the demands of public figures, including ministers, and petitions to the High Court of Justice.

On Thursday, Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog told the attendants at the annual Masorti (Conservative) assembly that he visited Safed on Monday, and met with Arab students there, who face discrimination and hostility in the wake of Eliahu’s letter. Herzog said he felt as though it was simply promoting old-fashioned and dangerous racial segregation.

“I felt like I was in Alabama in the 1940s,” he told the audience.

Interestingly, Druckman’s recent statement was signed only by leading figures from the national religious camp, and did not receive the support of the haredi rabbis. The leaders of the haredi camp have expressed reservations against Eliahu’s letter, and were cited as calling it “an unnecessary provocation” that could cause damage to Jews in the Diaspora.

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