Israeli Arabs throughout the countries are having a difficult time digesting the letter signed by dozens of municipal rabbis against renting apartments to Arabs.
Arab local council members in towns where Jews and Arab live side by side like Ramlah, Lod, Akko and Tel Aviv-Yafo, have expressed their shock at the move which has already received wall to wall condemnation and have demanded that a criminal inquiry be launched against the rabbis, some of whom are employed by the local councils and receive salaries from the state.
Dr. Mahmud Jeroshi, a Ramlah council member told Ynet that the letter would cause a widening of the tear between Jews and Arabs. "It is saddening that the rabbis are expressing themselves in this manner.
"What will Arab residents in mixed cities do? Where would they live? Search for an apartment on the moon? I don't understand why rabbis and religious leaders need to get involved in politics and these kinds of messages. It would be better if they were to focus on spiritual and religious activities."
Jeroshi protested over the fact that there are places where the Arab population doesn't manage to fit in. "I know many doctors who work in hospitals ad then go back to their village which is extremely far away. Why should it be like that? The Arab doctor can serve a community but is not good enough to live in one? Same story goes for lawyers who also serve the community."
He believes that "The housing and construction minister must censure the phenomenon. Today they are calling not to rent out apartments, tomorrow they will say that Arabs shouldn't be employed in certain jobs. It must be stopped and fast." Tel Aviv-Jaffa also protested against the letter. Council member Ahmed Masharui told Ynet, "I know of the slow drizzle of racial prejudice for long before the letter in cases were apartments weren't rented out to Arabs in Yafo, now it's expanding.
Cynical use of religion
Council member Omar Siksik added that "It is the worst possible feeling, we are losing all humanity. If rabbis express themselves in such a racist way, and do so in the name of religion, then I am appalled at the hate and oppression against anyone who is different instead of doing the opposite.
A religious man should bring people closer and not make racist statements. Unfortunately, these things exist in Jaffa - areas where they publicly announce that they don't sell to Arabs, and that is sad."
Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv Yafo Meital Lehavi (Meretz party) called on the authorities to open a criminal inquiry against the rabbis who signed the letter. "These statements of incitement are aired fearlessly in broad daylight. The attorney general must destroy this phenomenon and make an unequivocal announcement that this is a criminal act that could lead to criminal actions."
Deputy Mayor of Maalot-Tarshiha George Ablini has expressed pleasure that the municipal rabbi in the city of 23,000, where 22% aren't Jewish, was not among the signatories of the letter.
"These are public servants who receive their salary from the religious department of the Interior Ministry. The government must respond to the issue. We will not allow this incident to be an arrow that hits the harmony and coexistence", he added.
A letter sent Thursday afternoon from the Attorney General's office to MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) reveals that the Attorney General's office is examining whether there are criminal aspects to the controversial rabbis' letter in which 50 rabbis signed a document prohibiting the sale or rental of apartments to Arabs.
"The Attorney General thinks that the statements ascribed to the rabbis are incredibly problematic for numerous reasons and are not appropriate with their role as public servants", wrote lawyer Noa Mishor.
"That said" continued the letter, "The legal aspect of the issue is complex, and the attorney general has ordered that the relevant officials examine the existence of criminal and legal aspects which could rise from the letter which is ascribed to the rabbis, as soon as possible".
Eli Senyor, Hagai Einav, Hassan Shaalan and Yoav Zitun contributed to this report
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