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Rabbis Haskel Lookstein & Yehuda Gilad Respond to Those Who Are Against Selling/Renting to Arabs In Israel

Rabbis Haskel Lookstein & Yehuda Gilad Respond to Those Who Are Against Selling/Renting to Arabs In Israel

Associate Editor

This was sent by Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, December 10, 2010, to his congregation, Kehilath Jeshurun.

Dear KJ Family:

The Jewish and general world has been rocked in the past few days by a statement signed by rabbis in the State of Israel that prohibits selling or renting a home to a non-Jew in the Land of Israel. It is important for those who disagree with that statement to make that disagreement clear – and public – because silence can be construed as agreement.

In the interest of my making my own views clear, I am attaching below a very strong statement by Rav Yehuda Gilad, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Maaleh Gilboa in the Galil. Rav Gilad, the son-in-law of the late Rav Yehuda Amital, and the Rabbi of Kibbutz Lavi, is a great exponent of Modern Orthodoxy in Israel. His statement speaks for me and, I would hope, for the KJ family. I am grateful to Rabbi Weinstock for bringing it to my attention. The following are Rav Gilad’s words.

Very cordially yours,
Haskel Lookstein

“Ani Mitbayeish” by Rav Yehuda Gilad

There have been a few rare instances in my life where I have felt ashamed to be a believing Jew committed to Halakhah, and to bear the title Rabbi. Seeing the recent rabbinic ruling that categorically prohibits selling or renting a home to a non-Jew in the land of Israel was one of these moments. This ruling is a perversion of halakhah and ethically repugnant. Moreover, it is a public desecration of God’s name.

Anyone even remotely familiar with the world of Halakhah knows that it is possible to quote Biblical verses, Talmudic statements and Halakhic precedents to support almost any position. There is in the vast treasure of our Torah, statements of law and lore that give expression to diverse and contradictory trends of thought for different times and changing circumstances.

So, too, in relation to Gentiles, on the one hand, we find statements that reflect the mainstream of Jewish tradition such as "beloved is all mankind, created in the Divine image" and the like. On the other hand, the statement, “kill even the best of the Gentiles” (which apparently was uttered in extreme circumstances when we were under the brutal reign of the Romans) appears in our sources. The wisdom of the rabbis and leaders of every generation was to issue Halakhic rulings that were appropriate to their time and place in a manner that did justice to the tradition while simultaneously sanctifying God’s name.

Regarding the sale and renting of homes in Israel to non-Jews, outstanding rabbis of recent generations, led by Rabbi Herzog, first Chief Rabbi of Israel, ruled that the prohibition "you shall not show them favor" (Deut. 7:2) written in the Torah and part of the cannon of Halakhah, is not relevant to the reality of a Jewish democratic state — a member of the family of nations, which promised before the entire world to grant equality to its citizens regardless of religion, race or sex.

As a resident of the Galilee, I cannot ignore a real problem that exists in certain places and requires solutions on a national level. Maintaining the Jewish character of Israel is a real concern, especially in light of internal and external voices questioning our right to a Jewish national home.

However, we should remember the country’s Jewish character is measured first and foremost through moral parameters. Dozens of times the Torah abjures us to love the stranger. "You shall love the stranger because you were strangers in Egypt." As a people who suffered over the generations discrimination and racism, we bear a responsibility to be a paragon of decency to the minorities that live among us. This is the way of Torah and Halakhah from time immemorial.

As the Rambam writes in another context: "the Torah’s laws are not to bring revenge into the world, rather they are to bring mercy and grace and peace into the world." Anyone for whom the Torah of Israel is dear, must rise up and protest against this perverse ruling. For just these types of circumstances it was said, "where there is a desecration of God, one pays no honor to the Rabbis."

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