Chief Rabbi Of Sefat Again Issues Ruling Undermining Israeli Law
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The Chief Rabbi of Sefat Shmuel Eliyahu is no stranger to controversy. In the past, Eliyahu – whose late father was once Israel’s Sefardi chief rabbi and who was arrested and jailed in his youth for plotting terror attacks and revolution against the State of Israel – has a long history of making racist remarks and issuing inflammatory halakhic rulings.
For example, in late 2010 and early 2011, Eliyahu was the main force behind the illegal move to refuse to rent apartments to Israeli Arabs and Druze attending college in Sefat and was the lead signatory on the public ban issued against those Jews who violated Eliyahu’s ruling.
Even though Eliyahu is Zionist Orthodox rabbi, several haredi rabbis initially signed the public proclamation he issued banning the rental or sale of any housing stock to Arabs or Druze. But then-haredi-leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and the second-most-senior haredi leader Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman made strong statements against the ruling. Elyashiv felt Eliyahu’s ruling was too harsh and would lead to a blowback against Jews outside of Israel – especially against haredim, most of whom are easily identified as Jews by their dress.
Because Eliyahu’s salary is paid by the state, there were calls for the state to fire him, and several Members of Knesset, Israel’s parliament, tried to write and pass new legislation that would penalize state employees like Eliyahu for espousing racist positions that incite hatred against minorities (and which could lead to violence). That move was opposed by a broad spectrum of Orthodox and haredi rabbis and eventually it died out – in no small measure because it did not receive strong backing from the ruling coalition government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The state opened a criminal probe into racist remarks made by Eliyahu, but declined to investigate or prosecute him for or anyone else for the ruling banning the rental or sale of housing to Arab and Druze Israelis.
Eliyahu was summoned by police, but he refused to answer the summons. He was not arrested, even though a regular Israeli citizen – and certainly an Arab or Druze Israeli citizen – refusing to answer a police summons would have been summarily arrested.
Now Arutz Sheva reports that recently Eliyahu was asked if it would be permissible according to halakha, Jewish law, to report tax evasion to government authorities – Eliyahu ruled that it was not permissible to do so.
“It is the responsibility of the tax authority to enforce the law, but the words of the Prophet described in the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) strongly denigrates anyone who implicates a fellow Jew or causes him penalty,” Eliyahu reportedly ruled.
This new ruling appears to reopen the question of state funding for rabbis like Eliyahu whose rulings undermine or openly oppose Israeli law and a civil society.