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'Even good Zionist girls have pitfalls'
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MK Ben Ari. 'Rabbis' wives performing duty'
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MK Hotovely. Emergency debate
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Rabbi's wife: Arabs are the enemy
Woman who signed letter urging Jewish girls not to date Arabs says 'separatism is what sustained the Jewish people throughout time.' Meanwhile, Masorti Movement rabbi slams letter, says 'our faith is strong enough in order to treat non-Jews with respect and equality'

The letter issued by leading rabbis' wives urging Jewish women to avoid contact with Arab men was thought up and executed within no more than 48 hours.

 

"We thought it up the day before yesterday and were already working on it by Tuesday," said the letter's initiator, Anat Gofstein of the Lehava organization. "All the rabbis' wives were incredibly receptive to the idea. I only had to mention the assimilation phenomenon and they all signed."

 

Talking to Ynet, Gofstein said there was overwhelming agreement among the rabbis' wives when it came to the assimilation issue. "We talked about how close to home this issue is and it was obvious the trend had only grown further," she stated.

 

Gofstein claimed that assimilation had reached religious girls' high schools and seminaries. "We engage in the girls' rehabilitation after they emerge wounded and battered from the Arab villages," she said.

 

"We are interested in boosting prevention. The phenomenon must be stopped instead of waiting for the girls to remain in the villages making it harder to pull them out of Arab culture."

 

No antagonism?

One of the rabbis' wives who signed the letter addressed the issue of whether the letter increases antagonism towards religion. "I don't understand what this antagonism you speak of," she told Ynet.

 

"Separatism is what sustained the Jewish people throughout time. It's our distinction. We are not out to cause uproar, we are here to raise a very painful issue. And yes, very painful matters need to be discussed openly. Who better to talk to the girls than the rabbis' wives?"

 

Wouldn't girls already dating Arab men be the last to adhere to such a plea?

 

"Out of experience I can say that even girls who were raised as good Zionists have their pitfalls. This letter can deter them prior to falling into traps. It is meant to raise awareness for the issue, stir up the educational establishment.

 

"There are 18 and 19-year-old girls who are on National Service and get hit on by 40-year-old Arab men. These stories happen every day and no one talks about it. It's just buried and dubbed racism. There is no racism. Arabs are our enemies and that is why one has to talk about it and act against it."

 

Knesset Member Michael Ben Ari (National Union) said that the letter is "in the spirit of the late Golda Meir's saying 'Who ever performs intermarriage joins the six million.' The role of the rabbis' wives has always been to maintain the sanctity of Jewish women and they should be commended for performing their duty."  

 

MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), chairwoman of the Knesset Commission on the Status of Women, said in response to the letter that "the intermarriage phenomenon among Jewish girls and Arab men is dangerous for women, who suffer abuse and disconnection from their families after the marriage."

 

Hotovely added that the committee she heads will hold an emergency debate on ways to prevent intermarriage.

 

Criticism

The Ne'emanei Torah VaAvodah movement said in response that "such public letters compromise the role of Judaism in the Israeli society and sully the State of Israel's Zionist vision. Unity and relations between all the land's inhabitants are a prerequisite for our existence and wellbeing." It was further noted: "The letter does not help bolster Judaism as its authors intended but only creates true damage."

 

Rabbi Mauricio Balter, a senior official with the conservative movement said: "Naturally the Masorti Movement does not endorse intermarriage but this has nothing to do with the hate campaign which is reminiscent of darker times. Our faith is strong enough in order to treat non-Jews with respect and equality."

 

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism said: "The Israeli society is nearing a deep dark abyss of racism and xenophobia encouraged by an inciting rabbinical establishment."  

 

Kobi Nahshoni contributed to this report

 

 

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