By Michelle Boorstein
Nearly 1,000 mostly American rabbis have signed a petition condemning a recent ruling by a group of Israeli rabbis barring Jews from leasing or selling Israeli property to non-Jews.
The ruling last week by the rabbis – many of whom apparently are publicly-employed “community” rabbis – has triggered an outpouring of criticism, including from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, renowned Israeli Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem and many Israeli rabbis who said it encourages anti-Semitism and violates Jewish values. The Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein launched a probe into whether the ruling is criminal.
An unofficial translation of the ruling cites an Old Testament passage (Deuteronomy 7:2) which talks about making “treaties” with other peoples. The translation warns that it can lead to intermarriage and other problems “because their lifestyle is different from that of the Jews.”
The ruling initially came from about three dozen municipal rabbis, but about 300 other Israeli rabbis also signed it, according to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. Many are part of the Orthodox community and the ruling was widely seen as being aimed at Arabs. Some signers said they were trying to protect Jews and the Jewish character of Israel.
A top ultra-Orthodox rabbi, Israeli Yosef Shalom Elyashiv said those who supported the ruling should “have their pens taken away,” the Associated Press reported.
The petition launched by the New Israel Fund, a group that advocates for pluralism in Israel, said the ruling “has caused great shock and pain,” and is a “desecration of God’s name.”
This whole debate illuminates both religious and political tensions among Jews worldwide. It reflects disputes both over how to read the Torah but also how to best nurture a “Jewish” spirit in Israel as the Israeli-Palestinian rages on.