|Rabbis' wives call on Jews not to date Arabs
An Israeli group of prominent rabbis' wives has urged Jewish girls not to date or work with Arabs, underscoring the rising power of the religious Right and fuelling fears of growing racism in the country.
| December 29, 2010
| December 29, 2010
A letter, signed by 27 wives, called on Jewish girls not to go out with Arabs, work with them or perform national service in places where Arabs are employed. It states: "There are quite a few Arab workers who give themselves Hebrew names. Yussef turns into Yossi, Samir turns into Sami, and Abed turns into Ami. They ask to be close to you, try to find favour with you, and give you all the attention in world. They know how to act with courtesy, as if they really care for you, but their behaviour is only temporary. The moment you are in their hands, in their village, under their control, everything changes.
"Your life will never go back to the way it was, and the attention you so desired will turn into curses, beatings, and humiliations."
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the head of Israel's Reform branch of Judaism, condemned the letter. "Israeli society is falling into a deep, dark pit of racism and xenophobia," he warned.
Among the women who signed the letter were the wives and daughters of senior rabbis, including the daughter of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, a member of Israel's coalition government.
The letter was distributed by a group called Lehava (Flames), an organisation influenced by the ideology of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was elected to Israel's Knesset parliament in 1984 before his Kach party was outlawed as racist.
The incident is the latest in a series of anti-Arab initiatives by Israel's religious Right. Earlier this month there was outrage after dozens of municipal rabbis signed a petition urging Jews not to rent or sell homes to non-Jews. The petition was widely condemned, including by Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister. But a poll published this week found that 44 per cent of Israeli Jews supported the rabbis' call, while 48 per cent were opposed.
A few weeks ago Jewish residents protested in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam, warning Jewish women to stay away from Arab men.
On Tuesday, dozens of pupils and parents demonstrated in Jaffa, a mixed Jewish-Arab neighbourhood of Tel Aviv, after a school banned pupils from speaking Arabic in the classroom. The parents complained that Jewish immigrant children from the former Soviet Union were not prevented from speaking Russian in the school.