The rabbis’ declaration banning the leasing of apartments to Arabs provoked many responses in favor and against. Many of these reactions – on both sides – were tendentious, selective and misleading. It is therefore important to make it clear that we are dealing with a document replete with distortions and demagoguery that has nothing to do with Jewish law.
What we have is a political pamphlet whose creators showed false judgment. They enlisted for their cause halachaic sources via distorted interpretation, and precisely for that reason their declaration is highly damaging and highly flawed.
The rabbis’ declaration constitutes a desecration of God’s name. It may also endanger Jews abroad. More than anything, it constitutes improper interpretation of the Torah. Those who wrote the document should go back to school rather than teach Jewish law in Israel.
Indeed, there are clear halachaic sources banning the sale of Eretz Yisrael land to gentiles (with various methods pertaining to various groups.) There are also bans on marrying gentiles. Moreover, the rabbis’ declaration makes note of serious and painful security and social problems. However, the absurd blend of arguments presented in the document, with each argument relevant for a different group of gentiles (and some relevant to Jews too) constitutes a blend of truth and lies that is more damaging than a blatant lie and carries God’s name in vain.
Jewish law recognizes the complexity of reality. Hence, rulings are supposed to be based on broad vision rather than a simplistic picture. The rabbis who issue these rulings are supposed to be familiar with the changing times and diverse circumstances. Yet the authors of the document failed to do this.
They ignored, for example, the fact that according to some important rulings the ban should not be applied to non-Jewish residents, with several important rabbis ruling that most gentiles in Israel today are residents. Also ignored was the fact that some great rabbis apply this ban, as well as most discriminating halachaic bans, only to ancient gentiles and not to present-day non-Jews.
Unfit to serve as rabbis
The rabbis also ignored that fact that physical fears of violence and terror only pertain to a minority of hostile Arabs and certainly not to all non-Jews. And while referring to the issue of declining real estate values as a halachaic matter, these rabbis implied that for this reason we should also not be selling homes to haredim or that we shouldn’t agree to build a shelter for children from broken families in our neighborhood.
The rabbis also forgot or failed to mention the words of Rabbi Herzog, may he rest in peace, that in a democratic state we must not discriminate against gentiles in any way, regardless of the interpretation of halachaic bans.
Indeed, we fear a hostile takeover of state land and assets. There is also a complex problem of intermarriage, and Jews cannot live in Arab communities. All these issues require an honest, brave approach and had the rabbis wrote this their words would have value and elicit broad support. Yet such approach would not be achieved via distorted, simplistic interpretation of Jewish law and disregard for basic rules of morality.
According to such simplistic interpretation, we should also be beating wives who misbehave, placing non-believing Jews in a pit, banning women from Torah studies, and possibly even adhering to the “eye for an eye” rule. Yet the art of interpreting Jewish law is the combination of original sources and application under changing circumstances. Those who fail to understand it have no idea what Jewish law means.
In the current context, two conclusions emerge here: First, municipal rabbis are public servants and any case where they preach to violate the law requires that they be fired (and by the way, the rule of law is also a halachaic value.) Secondly, those who interpret Halacha sources in such twisted and immoral manner and who are so gravely detached from reality and from Israeli society’s values suffer from a greatly flawed halachaic sense of judgment and should be disqualified from serving in any rabbinical post.
Rabbi Abraham has a PhD in Physics and teaches at Bar-Ilan University’s Institute for Advanced Torah Studies
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