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World Rabbis Denounce Edict Forbidding Jews from Renting Homes to ArabsHarriet Sherwood Special to Salem-News.com
Letter signed by 900 rabbis around the world describes ruling backed by many Israeli rabbis as a 'painful distortion' of Judaism
(JERUSALEM GUARDIAN UK) - More than 900 rabbis from around the world have signed a letter expressing "great shock and pain" at a ruling backed by scores of Israeli rabbis forbidding Jews from renting or selling property to non-Jews.
The letter describes the ruling as a "painful distortion of our tradition" and a "desecration of God's name" and appeals to Israeli rabbis to "take a public stand and oppose those who misrepresent our tradition".
Most of the signatories are from the US, but they include rabbis from many countries, among them the UK.
The ruling, which originated with Shmuel Eliyahu, the municipal rabbi of the city of Safed, has caused controversy and division within Israel. It has also been strongly criticised by Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and president, Shimon Peres.
But it attracted widespread support among nationalist rabbis. It is mainly targeted at Arab citizens of Israel but also the country's growing refugee and economic-migrant community.
The global signatories, who describe themselves as Rabbis Against Religious Discrimination, address their letter to "our rabbinic colleagues in Israel" to whom they are turning "at a time of crisis".
It says: "The attempt to root discriminatory policies based on religion or ethnicity in Torah is a painful distortion of our tradition. Am Yisrael [the people of Israel] know the sting of discrimination, and we still bear the scars of hatred."
It adds that Jews in the diaspora "struggle to maintain a strong, loving relationship" with Israel. "Every day that challenge grows more difficult. Many of our congregants love Israel and want nothing more than the safety and security of the Jewish homeland, but for a growing number of Jews in America this relationship to Israel cannot be assumed."
The ruling provides "justification for anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment across the world".
The letter, sponsored by the New Israel Fund, follows the denunciation last week of the ruling by Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Elyashiv, head of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox establishment. "I've said for some time that there are rabbis who must have their pens taken away from them," he said.
There have been calls for rabbis who backed the ruling and whose salaries are paid from public funds to be disciplined or removed from their posts. Israel's attorney-general has described the ruling as "inappropriate public conduct".
Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial centre, also strongly criticised the ruling.
Source: Guardian UK
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