Rightists Seek to Reward Firms That Don't Hire Gentiles

The organization Lehava is conducting a campaign urging Jewish women not to have romantic relations with Arabs.

The extremist right-wing Lehava organization, which has the stated goal of combating Jewish assimilation in Israel, will begin providing special certification to dozens of businesses in the coming weeks that commit to employing only Jews, several activists from the organization said yesterday.

The certificates are to read in part: "The owner of this business employs Jewish workers and does not employ enemies." Most of the businesses involved are in Jerusalem.

The choice of wording does not specifically state that the businesses do not employ Arabs, but one of the organization's leaders, Bentzi Gopstein, who is a councilman in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba near Hebron, told Haaretz that the certificate will not be provided to businesses that have Arab employees.

He said to earn the certificate, businesses will have to prove to Lehava's members that it employs only Jews.

Gopstein said most of the businesses that have sought the certification are in religious and ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in the north of Jerusalem near Shmuel Hanavi Street. He said dozens of businesses had expressed interest, but declined to provide specific figures.

One religious bookstore owner in the area told Haaretz that he had contacted Lehava seeking the certification, but when told that his comments would be published in a newspaper, he said he had changed his mind and has no intention of displaying the certificate in his store.

A different certificate from non profit Ma'agalei Tzedek confirming businesses' commitment to protecting workers' rights and handicapped access will not be given to any businesses with the Lehava certification, executive director Dyonna Ginsburg said.

She told Haaretz Lehava may be trying to prevent Jewish assimilation but "in practice it is giving a bad name to the Jewish faith and driving many people from it."

Activists from Lehava will be canvassing businesses in the center of Jerusalem, including those in the Mahane Yehuda market, in the coming week seeking their participation in the certification program.

Yesterday the organization brought its campaign urging Jewish women not to have romantic relations with Arabs to Jerusalem's Neveh Yaakov and Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhoods, where it hung posters to that effect.