In response to a question in regards to assimilation, the two ruled that the goal – saving young women from physical and spiritual danger – justified the means – an activity entailing violation of Shabbat.
Rabbi Shalom Cohen of Eilat says that every weekend, many mixed couples from southern Israel arrive in the resort city, some staying the entire weekend. The phenomenon, he says, has become "a real tradition" in recent years, and today there are thousands of young Jewish women living with Muslim men.
The Eilat rabbi was required to address the issue about four years ago, when he was asked by some of these women to help their partners convert. Since being exposed to the extent of the phenomenon, he has been working to prevent the "forbidden romantic relations" by trying to convince the women to leave the men and using other methods he refuses to elaborate on.
Even without 'Pikuach Nefesh'
Contrary to what other organizations are doing on behalf of the same goal, Cohen stresses, "we don't make people become religious, we just try to save the women so that they are not lured by the pastime activities and financial temptations."
He says that in 50 cases he managed to persuade the women to break up with their Arab partners.
According to Cohen, one of the last opportunities to stop the women before the "point of no return" is at the security checkpoint before the entrance to Eilat. He asked Rabbis Batzri and Aviner whether one could leave the city on Shabbat, desecrating the day of rest, in favor of the matter.
Rabbi Aviner ruled that it was permitted due to the potential physical danger a relationship with Arab men poses to Jewish women, while Rabbi Batzri went as far as permitting it even without "Pikuach Nefesh" (the principle in Jewish law that the preservation of human life overrides any other religious consideration).
"There is a serious danger of assimilation, and today there are already 30,000 Jewish women in Arab villages," Rabbi Batzri explained through his son, Rabbi Yitzhak Batzri. "As religious officials we must protect the Jewish people from assimilation and annihilation, after one-third of it was erased in the Holocaust."
He stressed that his words were not directed necessarily at the Arab public, and that there was no different in this matter between a Muslim and any other "gentile."
Cooperation with Bedouin mayor
Rabbi Shalom Cohen adds that the phenomenon may also undermine the State's security, presenting as an example the story of a young woman serving in the IDF who carried a rifle despite living with an Arab man.
When the soldier's commanders learned of the identity of her partner they took her weapon away and are now considering releasing her from the army, he says, adding that "this is an unparalleled security scandal."
According to Rabbi Cohen, he has received surprising cooperation from the mayor of Bedouin town of Rahat, which has residents who live with Jewish women, as mixed marriages increase the phenomenon of late bachelorhood among Muslim men.