Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned on Wednesday that anti-Arab letters signed by rabbis and wives' of rabbis would lead to a wave of racism that would threaten to "take over" Israeli society.
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Barak expressed his concern in a statement, released shortly after a letter urging Jewish women not to date non-Jewish men was published by a group of rabbis' wives and just weeks after a rabbis' letter was published urging Jews not to sell or rent properties to non-Jews.
"The rabbi's letter and the letter by rabbis' wives are part of wave of racism threatening to sweep Israeli society into a dark and dangerous place," Barak said.
"The Labor party under my leadership is working to bring the Israeli people together, from all nationalities, in the spirit of the scroll of independence."
The new letter, signed by 30 rabbis' wives, says, "For your sake, for the sake of future generations, and so you don't undergo horrible suffering, we turn to you with a request, a plea, a prayer. Don't date non-Jews, don't work at places that non-Jews frequent, and don't do national service with non-Jews."
The letter was organized by the organization Lehava, which claims to "save daughters of Israel" from what it calls assimilation. Lehava also took part in the recent demonstrations against selling or renting homes to non-Jews.
In its attempt to appeal to Jewish women, the letter states that they descend from a noble race of kings, and that dating a non-Jew would thereby cut her off from her Jewish family.
The letter was published shortly after a new survey revealed that a full 44% of Israeli Jews support a letter issued by rabbis earlier this month forbidding the sale or rental of properties to non-Jews in the city of Safed. The survey reported that 48% of Israeli Jews oppose the rabbis' religious edict.
Dozens of Israel's municipal chief rabbis signed on to a religious ruling against the sale or rental of properties to non-Jewish Arabs, African refugees and migrant workers.