Druckman Unveils Part of Proposed Compromise on Renting to Arabs

Proposal is a response to letter signed by dozens of rabbis that said doing so violates Jewish law.

When an outcry erupted earlier this month over a letter endorsed by dozens of municipal rabbis that urged Jews not to rent or sell homes to non-Jews, Rabbi Haim Druckman began seeking a compromise. The text of his proposal has not yet been officially released, but yesterday, he disclosed some of its contents to a group of religious and secular civics teachers from around the country.

Apparently, the proposal will oppose a sweeping ban on selling or renting to Arabs, but will urge vigilance to ensure that real-estate transactions are not used "to implement a 'right of return'" for Palestinian refugees and their descendants "and expel us from our land."

Several religious Zionist rabbis have come out against the rabbis' letter, which was initiated by Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu of Safed, either on the grounds that Eliyahu was misinterpreting Jewish law or for pragmatic reasons. Tzohar, a group of moderate religious Zionist rabbis, has taken a leading role in opposing the letter.

Druckman, a prominent religious Zionist rabbis who heads the Or Etzion yeshiva, also declined to sign the letter but said he agrees with some of its content.

He has therefore been trying to get both opponents and supporters of Eliyahu's letter to sign onto his proposal instead, but has encountered numerous difficulties.

Yesterday, Druckman discussed his proposal at a teachers' conference on the rabbis' letter convened in Jerusalem by Gesher, an organization that seeks to bridge religious-secular differences.

He said his draft opens by expressing reservations about the letter's call for "what sounds like" discrimination against Arabs. It then declares Israel to be "a Jewish state, the place of the Jewish people" and says the state must safeguard Jews' right to their country by "acting against hostile elements that seek to exploit the principle of equality ... to exercise the 'right of return' and expel us from our country."

Druckman told the teachers he knows of cases in which "hostile elements" have offered "astronomical sums" to buy homes in Israel, and this, he said, must be prevented.

He also took issue with the intellectuals who called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to dismiss the municipal rabbis who signed Eliyahu's letter, noting that he had not heard these intellectuals object to what he termed the "racism" of secular Jews who demonstrated against allowing ultra-Orthodox Jews to move into Ramat Aviv, a predominantly secular neighborhood of Tel Aviv.