Israeli rabbis tell Jews not to sell homes to Arabs

Tue Dec 7, 2010 9:37am EST
 

By Maayan Lubell

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Dozens of Israeli rabbis, some of them civil servants, issued an appeal on Tuesday telling locals not to sell or rent property to non-Jews, drawing condemnation from lawmakers and human rights activists.

The open letter underscored Jewish-Arab tensions that have deepened along with Israel's deadlocked Palestinian conflict, as well as more recent demographic fears triggered by an influx of illegal African migrants.

"The Land of Israel is intended for the people of Israel," Yosef Shainin, chief rabbi of the southern port city of Ashdod and one of the 41 signatories, told Israel's Army Radio when asked about the letter.

Obtained by Reuters ahead of its planned publication in synagogues and religious journals, the letter quotes warnings by ancient sages that living with non-Jews can lead to "sacrilege." Other concerns for property values are also raised.

Another signatory, Chief Rabbi Mordechai Nagari from the Maale Adumim settlement, said: "If you allow Arabs into Jewish neighborhoods, you are asking for feuds to ensue."

While religious edicts are commonplace and often ignored in predominantly secular Israel, the letter was unusual as several of the rabbis were state-funded municipal chaplains -- in Nagari's case, of a settlement in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians have been struggling for statehood.

APPEAL TO NETANYAHU

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and opposition lawmakers demanded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemn the letter and discipline those rabbis.   Continued...