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Tzfat Residents to Counter-Protest Zoabi

Tzfat residents plan to hold a counter demonstration against MK Hanin Zoabi’s visit in protest of remarks made by the city’s chief rabbi.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 11/9/2010, 4:50 AM / Last Update: 11/9/2010, 4:45 AM

MK Hanin Zoabi, who is planning to visit the city of Tzfat in order to protest recent statements by its chief rabbi, will not be alone. The city’s residents are already planning to organize a counter-protest in support of Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, which will take place while Zoabi is in the city.

Eyal Cohen, a resident of Tzfat and one of the organizers of the counter-protest against Zoabi, told Arutz7 that the protest in support of Rabbi Eliyahu was originally planned for Wednesday but has been postponed until MK Zoabi arrives in Tzfat.

Rabbi Eliyahu recently joined 18 of Israel's leading northern rabbinic authorities in issuing a letter strictly prohibiting the sale or renting of land in Israel to a non-Jew. His actions were met with scathing criticism from political figures such as MK Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor) who said in the Knesset: “This rabbi... this insane rabbi... this recidivist... every once in a while he comes out with his mantra in a city in which people coexist,” and added that Rabbi Eliyahu should be “isolated” because of his opinions regarding Arabs.

Following the attack by Ben-Simon, Rabbi Eliyahu responded by explaining that Tzfat is fighting a Saudi-financed invasion.

Cohen described the atmosphere in Tzfat as “chaos” and said that out of 2,600 students in the local college, 1,600 are described as ‘minorities’.

“Many of them buy and rent apartments,” said Cohen. “There are student dormitories in which Jews live and they were evicted in order to allow [Arab] students to live there. They travel in cars playing Arabic music full volume, even on Shabbat and even in areas where there is a concentration of religious people. They sit with hookahs, harass girls, and even beat up youth.”

Cohen dismissed Arab claims that Tzfat, in which PA President Mahmoud Abbas was born, is an Arab city. “They say this about all of Israel. As far as they’re concerned, all of Israel is Arab. They want to throw us into the sea.”

He said that many of Tzfat’s residents back Rabbi Eliyahu’s position and promised that hundreds of residents will take part in the protest, which he described as aimed at “keeping the city’s Jewish identity.”

Cohen believes that the attacks on Rabbi Eliyahu are solely a result of fear rather than principles.  “They do not seem to like the Arabs so much. Even Ben-Simon who attacked Rabbi Eliyahu said that we must be careful not to add fuel to the fire. They are afraid.”