(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
MK Ofer Shelah slammed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, a candidate for the position of Sephardi chief rabbi, for controversial comments he has made in the past about Israel’s Arab minority.
At the same time, the Yesh Atid MK pointed out that senior MKs from Bayit Yehudi were supporting Eliyahu’s candidacy.
The rabbi has been accused of making racist comments in the media in reference to Israeli Arabs, and has also ruled that it is forbidden to sell or rent property in Israel to non-Jews.
Shelah’s comments, issued to the press by his office, noted that both Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs Eli Ben-Dahan and Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel, both of Bayit Yehudi, have expressed public support for Eliyahu’s campaign for chief rabbi.
“The possibility that Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu could be elected as Sephardi chief rabbi is an embarrassment to every Jew, religious and secular alike,” said Shelah. “It’s sad that from a respectable list of Sephardi rabbis, a more appropriate candidate than Rabbi Eliyahu has not been found, who has expressed more than once dark and racist opinions that embarrass every Israeli.”
Shelah’s statement is just the latest in a series of public attacks against Eliyahu, which have come from Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Labor MK Eitan Cabel and other members of Knesset.
Eliyahu is currently refraining from commenting on the comments made against him.
Last week, however, the Attorney General’s Office announced that it would call Eliyahu for a hearing should he formally declare his candidacy, which he has yet to do.
But a source in Bayit Yehudi expressed skepticism that any legal action would be taken against Eliyahu.
Also running for the position of Sephardi chief rabbi are the chief rabbi of Holon, Rabbi Avraham Yosef, the eldest living son of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef; Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, another son of Rabbi Ovadia and author of the Yalkut Yosef compendium of Jewish law; Rabbi Tzion Boaron, a longstanding rabbinical judge on the Supreme Rabbinical Court; Rabbi Ratzon Arusi, chief rabbi of Kiryat Ono; and Rabbi Yehuda Deri, chief rabbi of Beersheba and brother of Shas chairman Arye Deri.
Although Avraham Yosef is believed to be favored by his father for the position, The Jerusalem Post understands that Shas chairman Deri is working to thwart his candidacy, either in favor of Yitzhak Yosef, or his own brother Yehuda if Yitzhak’s candidacy is not considered strong enough in light of his somewhat low public profile.
The candidacy of Boaron is believed to be a significant problem for Shas, since he commands not inconsiderable support on the 150-member electoral committee that selects the new chief rabbis in a secret ballot.
Boaron, who has declared that he will not withdraw his candidacy under any circumstances, could therefore siphon votes away from the official Shas candidate.
The election will take place on July 24 in Jerusalem.