Eighteen prominent Israeli rabbis recently issued an open letter calling on Jews to refuse to rent or sell property to Arabs, and to ostracize any Jew who rents or sells to non-Jews.The letter included the statement, ‘The neighbors and acquaintances [of a Jew who sells or rents to an Arab] must distance themselves from the Jew, refrain from doing business with him, deny him the right to read from the Torah, and similarly [ostracize] him until he goes back on this harmful deed.’
The leading signatory of the letter is Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu of Safed, known for his inflammatory statements against Palestinians. His father, Mordechai Eliyahu, called on the Safed Academic College to expel Palestinian students in 2002, and also stated that even if people called him a racist, he would continue to argue that “Jewish religious law prohibits the selling of apartments to Arabs and the renting of apartments to Arabs.”
The rabbis’ letter was published in the wake of a conference in the town of Safed called “The Quiet War: Combating Assimilation in the Holy City of Safed”, in which participants rallied against the Palestinian students enrolled at the Safed Academic College, warning of an ‘Arab takeover’ of the town.
The letter also stated that, ‘Their [Arabs] way of life is different than that of Jews. Among them are those who are bitter and hateful toward us and who meddle into our lives to the point where they are a danger.’
Palestinian-Israeli students (who hold Israeli citizenship) make up around half of the student body at the Safed Academic College. They report that it has become increasingly difficult for them to find housing in the area.
The Arab representative of the College’s Student Union described the difficulties faced by Palestinian students to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, saying, “In one instance, we managed to find an apartment for rent in the nearby moshav of Biriya. When the neighbors understood that Arabs were moving in, they threatened to set the apartment on fire. The situation has become intolerable. There are students who come here from the Negev, the Triangle, Haifa and Wadi Ara. They have nowhere to live. We will combat this ugly phenomenon.”