rabbi - Archive: Limor Edrey - December 14 2010
Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein came out against the rabbis’ letter. Photo by Archive: Limor Edrey
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Rabbi Chaim Druckman, a moderate religious Zionist leader, is working to achieve a compromise on the controversy surrounding the banning of Jews from selling or leasing property to Arabs, as proclaimed by 50 prominent rabbis last week.

Druckman is proposing an alternative that would distinguish between "loyal Arabs" and "Israel-hating rabbis."

Druckman says a "loyal Arab" must have equal rights, but "Israel-haters" should be ostracized. He opposed the sweeping ruling of the 50 rabbis. Names of potential signatories to Drukman's letter are expected to be released later this week.

Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, head of the Har Etzion Yeshiva and another moderate religious Zionist leader, also came out against the letter.

In an article published in his yeshiva's internal newsletter, Lichtenstein tries to undermine the halakhic argument of the original letter, and wonders why the authors could not anticipate the outrage it provoked. He notes the criticism of the ultra-Orthodox rabbis in the wake of the letter and "attacks from left and right on the religious-nationalist rabbis."

"Particular grief was caused to the community of those loyal to the Torah and fearful about the stature and character of the state, and to the peacefulness of the spiritual leaders laboring to make the Torah loved, to stay loyal to the halakha, and aspiring to build the state on the foundation of tradition," he says.

"There is no doubt the arguments in the letter are based on sources from the sages of blessed memory, and generations of halakhic tradition, but the document in general leaves one with the impression that it builds its conclusions on assumptions that reflect a particular, but not the only possible, halakhic approach."

Lichtenstein highlights the commandment prohibiting housing to non-Jews or idol-worshipers in the Holy Land. He lists four examples of misinterpretation in the letter, and of the authors ignoring other opinions in the Gemara and halakha. He says the ruling that anyone selling an apartment to a Gentile must be ostracized "is completely false."

"We should state the obvious: In the balance are key questions .... The readiness and ability to consider extensive factors linked to halakhic content and their connection to historic and social reality necessitate a wider discussion."

Meanwhile, the Tel Aviv city council has unilaterally endorsed a motion by Meretz's Ahmed Mashharawi to denounce the rabbis' letter. "I'm proud to be the resident of a mixed, pluralist city that has a place for all religions and nationalities," Mashharawi said.