ARZA (Association of Reform Zionists of America) reacts with alarm to a recent report that 50 leading Israeli municipal chief rabbis, all employed by the State, have signed on to a religious ruling which forbids renting homes to gentiles - a move particularly aimed against Arabs.
This ruling comes just months after the Chief Rabbi of Safed initiated a call urging Jews to refrain from renting or selling apartments to non-Jews. We ask that you write a letter to the Israeli Ambassador to express your concerns. First some more background.
This letter comes on the heels of a number of bills brought before the Israeli Knesset, which are designed to insure that the country remains a Jewish state by isolating Israel's Arab population. Statements by some of the chief rabbis make clear their motives: "We don't need to help Arabs set down roots in Israel," said Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of the Beit El settlement. "Racism originated in the Torah," said Rabbi Yosef Scheinen, who heads the Ashdod Yeshiva. He added that he did not see the move as racist so much as segregationist.
ARZA recognizes with pride the work of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) in opposing this statement and others through public protest and legal action.
ARZA calls upon all relevant Israeli governmental bodies to reject and condemn the statement of the chief rabbis. And, we praise those Israeli Orthodox rabbis who have openly criticized the ruling of their colleagues, as well as Israeli politicians who have strongly condemned this statement, including Prime Minister Netanyahu who said that it was forbidden for such comments to be made in a democratic state, "especially in a Jewish democratic state that respects Jewish tradition and the Bible." We hope and pray that all Israelis, no matter their political affiliation or religious practice, will take to heart the words of the Declaration of Independence that called into being the State of Israel, words which calls upon "…the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship…"
At the very moment when Israel's very existence is being questioned, Israel must not add fuel to that fire by allowing statements or acts that are racist in nature. To do so flies in the face of the Zionist dream and common decency. Reform Judaism rejects the statement of these Orthodox rabbis because it runs counter to our understanding of Judaism and because of our understanding of what the founders of Israel meant when they spoke of a democratic Jewish state.
You can share your thoughts and concerns with Ambassador Michael Oren, Ambassador to the United States from Israel. You can write to him directly at Embemail@example.com.
Rabbi Robert Orkand, President, ARZA