Daily Israel Report

Arab Violence Spreads to Tzfat

Arab violence against Jews spread to the northern city of Tzfat (Safed), several days after rabbis urged Jews not to rent or sell to Arabs.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 10/24/2010, 12:22 PM / Last Update: 10/24/2010, 12:28 PM

Flash 90

Arab violence against Jews spread to the northern city of Tzfat (Safed) on the Sabbath, several days after rabbis urged Jews not to rent or sell to Arabs. 

The Friday night clashes between hareidi religious Jews and Arabs began after an argument with Jews who rent rooms at the college in Tzfat, one of the traditional four holy cities besides Jerusalem, Tiberias and Hevron. A police investigation is in progress.

Tzfat residents also said that a Palestinian Authority flag was raised on top of a Muslim mosque in the city Saturday night.

Police denied there was any connection between the Arab stone-throwing riot and the proclamation by 18 rabbis last week, calling on Jews to avoid turning over residences to Arabs. Left-wing groups have called on the government to investigate the rabbis for incitement.

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the city's chief rabbi and son of the late Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, explained that the intention of the ruling was to prevent a threat to public safely. "It creates a lot of tension in the city," he said. "When a non-Jew moves in, residents begin to worry about their children, about their daughters." Many Arab students have been known to date Jewish girls.

The Chabad-Lubavitch movement, whose rabbis were among the signatories of the ruling, noted that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson – known as the ”Rebbe” – opposed the sale of houses in the religious Crown Heights neighborhood in New York to non-Jews to avoid the area becoming a Jewish “outpost” instead of a vibrant center of Jewish life.

Two left-wing groups responded to the rabbis’ ruling by calling on Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to lead a criminal investigation against Rabbi Eliyahu for incitement to racism.

“These sentiments are prohibited by law, and worse ten-fold when they are expressed by a public figure in an official capacity,” the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) of the Reform movement wrote to Weinstein. “

An official of the Abraham Fund, which promotes Arab-Israel activities, said it wants Rabbi Eliyahu fired because as a government employee, “He can't express himself in a racist way.”