Widespread condemnation has greeted a ruling by over 50 chief rabbis of Israeli towns prohibiting Jews from renting and selling homes to non-Jews either in Israel or Jewish neighbourhoods in the diaspora.
The Israeli media reported that the radical declaration will be published ahead of Shabbat as an advertisement in the Orthodox press and in weekly leaflets that are circulated to synagogues. The decree states that Jews who ignore the prohibition should be ostracised.
The ruling follows the controversial statement by Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu in October urging the town's residents not to rent apartments
to Arab students studying at the local college.
While many of the rabbis who signed are known extremists such as Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba, other signatories include chief rabbis of mainstream Israeli cities such as Rabbi Yaakov Edelstein of Ramat Hasharon and Rabbi Shmuel Pinto of Ashdod.
The ruling was compiled by a Netanya rabbinical student who collected the rabbis' signatories. It quotes Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef as supporting the prohibition, and stresses that renting to non-Jews spiritually and physically endangers the Jewish people.
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger said he did not support the move. "We are not talking about a purely halachic matter because security and political considerations must also be taken into account," he said.
Left-wing MKs such as Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz said that the edict was "outright racism" and demanded that the chief rabbis, who are public functionaries with government salaries, should be fired. Politicians on the right also joined the chorus of condemnation. Minister of Science and Technology Daniel Hershkowitz of the Orthodox Habayit Hayehudi party said: "Many of the great Torah sages have already ruled that it is permissible to sell and rent property to non Jews."
The New Israel Fund held a rally in Tel Aviv Tuesday evening to protest against the ruling and said that the rabbinical edict is part of an erosion of democratic values in Israel.