Renting to Arabs

December 9, 2010

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The rabbis have spoken. And they disagree.

The opening shot came from the the Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, who ruled that Jews must not rent nor sell property to Arabs. Many other leading rabbis agreed with him. Soon thereafter several other orthodox and ultra-orthodox rabbis piled in to disagree, and insist that the pronouncement from Tzfat was mistaken. Some rabbis from the original pronouncement in support of Rabbi Eliahu withdrew their names.

Each set of rabbis accuses the other of willful misinterpretation or misapplication of halacha, religious law.

Most secular and governmental responses have been unequivocally condemnatory, and moves are afoot to attempt to remove Rabbi Eliahu from his post.

Questions remain as to the political correctness of the widespread critique. After all, it is nigh-impossible to find Arab members of kibbutz, community settlements are now allowed by law to employ euphemism to exclude Arabs, and one must first ask Arab students at Tel Aviv University how easy it is for them to rent in the Ramat Aviv area before focusing all fury in the direction of Tzfat.

It would seem that questions still rage in the State of the Jews as to how democracy should be played out here.

Where do the legitimate rights of the Jewish People to live as a majority in their state while granting equal rights for the minority, meet or clash with a desire to live in a homogeneous community?

The final word (so far) should perhaps go to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, drawing less on the teachings of the Torah and more on the lessons of the Jewish People’s experience, calling the Tzfat pronouncement a “severe blow to the values of our lives as Jews and human beings in a democratic state.”

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