“Your average Israeli does not want bad things for non-Jews,” he says, “but they think: (a) our self-defense comes first, and (b) we are a small country and must take care of ourselves first. The demagogues play on these fears – the danger of an Arab living next to you or the danger of allowing refugees in our society, diluting Jewish culture, [the danger] that our children will intermarry. All of these play on fears so that even decent people who are not racist are overcome by these fears.”
Indeed, the religious edicts banning rentals to non-Jews seem to be based as much on xenophobia as religious beliefs.
Seven rabbis in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak published a ruling last month calling on landlords to refrain from letting to “illegal residents and their ilk.” The rabbis wrote that an influx of African asylum seekers had reached “horrific proportions,” accusing the refugees of being idle and harassing others.
Then there were the statements of rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu of Safed, a northern town, who spearheaded an edict to ban Arabs from living there. According to the rabbi, this was self-defense – otherwise Arabs would gradually take over Safed, considered a holy Jewish city.
“I have great compassion for human beings, even for animals. I have no compassion for enemies,” he told Maariv newspaper last month. “The moment a person comes and tells me in my house that I am a guest and not the owner, the moment a person distorts history, the moment a person acts in my city as if its his village, I have no obligation to be merciful towards him.”