President Shimon Peres on Wednesday issued a strong condemnation of a letter signed by several leading rabbis calling on Israelis to refrain from renting or selling property to non-Jews.
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"The rabbis' letter creates a fundamental moral crisis in Israel which affects the definition of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state," Peres said.
"Every person is created in God's image – that is one of the main tenets of Judaism, and it forms the basis for democracy," said Peres.
"The state of Israel is composed of Jewish citizens and non-Jewish citizens, and we all have the same rights, which include the right to practice any religion," he continued.
"This fundamental right is engraved in our Declaration of Independence, as well as in legislation forged in the Knesset. I call on all of us to keep intact the true nature of the democratic, Jewish and egalitarian State of Israel," the president concluded.
A group of religious Zionist activists had started circulating the letter in hopes of decreasing the rental of properties to Arabs. In addition, the signatories to the letter urged support for Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Safed, who several weeks ago called for residents of Safed to stop renting and selling property to Arabs.
The signatories hoped that their support of the measure would make it clear to the attorney general that this is a religious position, and that he cannot bring charges against Rabbi Eliyahu or anyone else with regard to what many Israelis have dubbed a racist political-economic stance.
Among the signatories were chief rabbis from the following cities: Ramat Hasharon, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, Rishon Letzion, Carmiel and others.