Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu roundly condemned on Tuesday the call by dozens of rabbis not to rent apartments to non-Jews, saying that the Torah teaches to "love the stranger."

Netanyahu, making his comment at the start of the National Bible Contest for Adults in Jerusalem, said that both Jews and non-Jews are citizens of the country. "How would we feel if someone said not to sell apartments to Jews? We would protest, and we do protest when it is said among our neighbors. It is forbidden that such things are said about Jews or Arabs."

RELATED:
40 rabbis: Jews shouldn't rent, sell homes to gentiles
Yosef: Gentiles exist only to serve Jews

Netanyahu said that it was forbidden for such comments to be made in a democratic state, "especially in a Jewish democratic state that respects Jewish tradition and the Bible." Israel, he said, "completely rejects" this call.

The prime minister's comments come after 50 municipal rabbis signed a petition on Tuesday saying that Jews should not rent homes in Israel to gentiles.

Amongst the reasons given for the prohibition are the danger of intermarriage and the lowering of real estate prices in areas where non-Jews live. Gentiles' "different lifestyle from Jews" can endanger lives, they wrote.

If a Jew sells or rents property to a gentile, his neighbors must warn him, and if he does not change his ways, the neighbors must avoid the person, and may not conduct business with him, according to the petition. A person who rents or sells to non-Jews also may not get aliyahs in synagogue.

MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) called on Tuesday for the rabbis to be fired.

"This is the worst kind of racism, which comes from rabbis who are paid by the state" Horowitz said on Tuesday. "All they do is encourage hatred and destroy Israeli democracy."

"These rabbis are taking advantage of their stature, which leads to incitement," he added. Horowitz also said there should be a criminal investigation of the rabbis. MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima), head of the Lobby to Promote Jewish-Arab Relations, said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should personally fire rabbis who said Jews should not rent or sell property to gentiles.

"The prime minister should be personally involved, should take away their salaries and fire them from any state-sanctioned job," Zuaretz said. "Religious services paid for by the state can not allow themselves to act in a way that harms tax-paying citizens."

The MK added that "we can no longer say that this is a fringe phenomenon."

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said also on Tuesday that Netanyahu should "firmly denounce" these rabbis, and Justice Minister Ya'acov Neeman should order an investigation.

"Municipal rabbis are state workers, and as such they must be loyal to the entire public," the organization's spokesperson, Nirit Moscovitch said. "Government workers can not take advantage of their stature to promote incitement."

Municipal rabbis who signed the petition include Rabbi Yaakov Edelstein of Ramat HaSharon, Rabbi Haim Pinto of Ashdod, Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba, Rabbi David Abuhazeira of Yavne, Rabbi David Bar-Chen of Sderot, and others.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger