Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the rabbi of Safed and an important personality in the religious Zionist community, believes that an injustice was done to the five teens suspected of killing Palestinian woman Aisha Rabi. During a lesson in halakha, Jewish law, that he delivered to students at the Pri Haaretz yeshiva high school which the suspects attend, he called the justice system corrupt and said it was discriminating against the teens, while it favored Arabs.
The fact that the teens allegedly threw stones at the car in which Rabi, a mother of eight, was riding, causing her death, doesn’t seem to make much of an impression on him. “When Arabs throw stones in the West Bank, that’s okay,” he said. “But if it’s a Jews, you call out the entire Shin Bet? What kind of law is that? Where is that law written?”
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The content of his talk with the Pri Haaretz students amounts to explicit support for the terror suspects. The belittling of the stone-throwing that caused the tragedy (“What’s the big deal? What are you being accused of? You threw a stone.”) is criminal disregard for human life and indirect incitement to murder. But for Eliyahu, the end justifies the means, and the end is to “take over the government.” A prison term can be preparation for leadership, he said, since it is written that “for out of prison he came forth to reign” (Ecclesiastes 4:14). This is exactly how the racist wild weeds of Israeli society grow; a spiritual leader legitimizes harming Arabs and injects it with halakhic ideology – all while receiving a state salary.
Aside from being Safed’s municipal rabbi, Eliyahu is also a member of the Chief Rabbinate Council, and the Chief Rabbinate’s National Council for Kashrut and Mikva’ot (ritual baths). Thus, when he tells yeshiva students that the legal system and the rest of state institutions are a “corrupt system” he isn’t entirely wrong. Only in a corrupt system can a person who openly opposed having Arabs study in Safed Academic College; expressed support for transferring Arabs out of Israel and issued a ruling forbidding Jews to sell or rent apartments to non-Jews – continue to hold official positions. Only a system that doesn’t know how to set boundaries against incitement, racism and ultranationalism, and that prioritizes “Jewish” over “democratic,” can treat a person like Eliyahu with such criminal tolerance. Two years ago the Israel Religious Action Center and a few other organizations petitioned the High Court to subject Eliyahu to a disciplinary trial for his previous statements. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked avoided taking any steps against him but pressured by the petition she declared that she had held a “clarification talk” with him. Let us hope that this time the attorney general will make the necessary decision to dismiss Eliyahu from his official posts.
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The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.