JERUSALEM (JTA) — Dozens of Israel’s municipal chief rabbis have signed on to a religious ruling that forbids renting homes to gentiles, and more specifically to Arabs.
The ruling, which became public Tuesday, comes less than two months after leading rabbis in Safed signed on to a letter drafted by the city’s chief rabbi calling on Jews not to rent to non-Jews in the northern Israeli city, as well as a month after rabbis in the haredi Orthodox Israeli city of Bnei Brak issued a religious ruling forbidding residents to rent apartments to African refugees, echoing a similar ruling for southern Tel Aviv.
Those signing the letter include the chief rabbis of Ramat Hasharon, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, Rishon Letzion, Carmiel, Gadera, Afula, Nahariya, Herzliya, Nahariya and Pardes Hannah. Top national-religious Rabbi Shlomo Aviner signed the letter, as did Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, son of the Shas Party spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Top haredi leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv also signed.
The ruling states that renting to non-Jews and Arabs will deflate the value of the home and of homes in the area. It says that neighbors of those who are renting or considering selling to non-Jews or Arabs should first warn the neighbor personally, and if the behavior continues to notify the community. The offending landlord, according to the ruling, must be ignored and not be called to the Torah for an aliyah.
Israeli civil rights organizations and Knesset members criticized the ruling and called for rabbis who signed to be fired from their jobs. Municipal chief rabbis’ salaries are paid for by the state.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel issued a statement calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to condemn the ruling and take action against those who signed it.
"Rabbis who are civil servants have an obligation to the entire public, including Israel’s Arab citizens" the statement said. "It is unthinkable that they would use their public status to promote racism and incitement."