Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu
Rabbi Shmuel EliyahuIsrael news photo: Flash 90

In an interview Thursday with Arutz Sheva, Tzfat (Safed) Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu discussed for the first time the Attorney General's decision to investigate him on charges of racism. “I find the whole story very funny,” Rabbi Eliyahu said about the prospect of his facing charges, but not for his signing a letter last year advocating that residents of Tzfat not rent out homes to Arabs.

“Finally the justice system understands that they cannot prosecute rabbis for giving a halakhic decision. I think we need to declare a holiday marking this event,” he said.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided earlier this week to investigate Rabbi Eliyahu for comments allegedly made by him. Among the comments were that “the Arab culture is very cruel,” that “A Jew should not run from an Arab – a Jew should make an Arab run,” and that “chasing Arabs out of Jewish neighborhoods is an important strategy.” Rabbi Eliyahu said that he was not referring to all Arabs, but only those who seek the destruction of the State of Israel or the murder of Jews.

In the interview, Rabbi Eliyahu said that he was not worried about being investigated for the comments, which were irrelevant. The main point of the story was the decision by Weinstein to set aside the main complaint against Rabbi Eliyahu – his halakhic opinion that Jews should not rent homes or apartments to Arabs.

“The Reform movement filed a complaint against me, continuing in the same pattern of promoting assimilation that the Reform have been known for over decades. Unfortunately, their policies in the United States hastened assimilation and decimated American Jewry. Thank G-d here in Israel they are a tiny group, but they spend most of their days filing complaints against rabbis, in order to empower themselves. It took a long time for the Attorney General to understand what is going on, but they finally made a proper decision – that halakhic opinions are not up for adjudication,” he said.

Rabbi Eliyahu had some harsh things to say about the media and the courts – particularly what he called their “hypocrisy” - as well. “Clearly it's legal to give halakhic opinions, but the media protested that idea. They, however, are all upset about the new law against libel, which significantly tightens the rules against defaming people. This law the journalists do not like, but they have the chutzpah to demand that rabbis observe 'the law' and not give halakhic opinions, even though we now see that this is perfectly legal.”

Likewise, he said, “the court itself is even more hypocritical. The High Court was at the forefront of demanding 'justice' for the Sephardic schoolgirls in Emanuel whom they claimed were being discriminated against last year, even ordering the school to be closed until the school administration capitulated. But now we see how they resist calls for adding Sephardic judges to the bench. For dishwashers, Sephardim are fine. But that there should be a Sephardic minister or Sephardic High Court judge? G-d forbid – we can't have them polluting the air,” he said facetiously.