Anti-Arab demonstration in Bat Yam Dec. 20, 2010 (Daniel Bar-On)
Anti-Arab demonstration in Bat Yam, December 20, 2010 Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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The head of Israel's Reform Judaism movement on Tuesday harshly criticized a letter by 30 rabbis' wives calling on Jewish girls not to date Arabs, work with them or perform national service in the same places where they work.

"Israeli society is falling into a deep, dark pit of racism and xenophobia," said Rabbi Gilad Kariv, who two weeks ago also vocally condemned a move by a number of leading rabbis who signed on a ruling to forbid the rental of homes to Arabs.

The rabbis' wives' statement was made in a letter organized by Lehava, an organization aimed at what it calls "saving the daughters of Israel" from assimilation. The group runs a shelter for Jewish women who have left their Arab partners and is calling for a boycott of a supermarket in Gush Etzion that employs Arab men and Jewish women.

Though parts of the letter refer to non-Jews in a generic way, other parts make it clear that the rabbis' wives - including Esther Lior, the wife of Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba, and Nitzhia Yosef, the wife of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Jerusalem and daughter-in-law of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef - are referring specifically to Arabs.

"Don't date non-Jews, don't work in places where there are non-Jews, and don't perform national service together with non-Jews," the letter urges.
In some of the places where Jewish girls might work, like supermarkets or hospitals, "there are no few Arab workers who use a Hebrew name," it states. "Yusuf turns into Yossi, Samir turns into Sami and Abed turns into Ami. They seek your company, try to get you to like them, and give you all the attention in the world."

But that won't last, the letter warns: "As soon as you're in their hands, in their village, under their control, everything changes."

The letter comes on the heels of a letter earlier this month endorsed by dozens of municipal rabbis that urged Jews not to rent or sell homes to non-Jews.

A protest in Bat Yam this month previously coupled the real estate issue with warnings that Jewish women should stay away from Arab men, though no convincing evidence was provided to indicate that such a phenomenon exists on a broad scale or that an increasing number of Jews are dating Arabs.

"Your grandmothers never dreamed or prayed that one of their descendants would commit an act that would remove future generations of her family from the Jewish people," the women's letter states.