Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu Emanuel Maimon

The High Court of Justice rejected on Monday an appeal filed by MK Esawi Frij (Meretz) against the candidacy of the Chief Rabbi of the city of Tzfat (Safed), Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, for the position of Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel.

Frij filed the  motion against Rabbi Eliyahu’s candidacy, claiming that statements regarding Arabs made in the past by Rabbi Eliyahu make him unfit for the prestigious position.

In the ruling, Chief Justice Asher Grunis and Justices Yoram Danziger and Tzvi Zilbertal wrote that the electoral body electing the chief rabbis will convene to make its decision on Wednesday and, as such, "We believe that the schedule simply does not allow us to decide on the issue placed before us."

The judges further noted that MK Frij did not contact the respondents before the filing of the petition, "even though this is usually required. This may also be related to the tight schedule before the election.”

"Under the circumstances described we see no choice other than withdrawing the petition," the judges wrote, adding that, "Needless to say that rejecting the petition does not express a position, one way or another, about the candidate. In other words, rejecting the petition is not an endorsement, positively or negatively, about the nomination of Rabbi Eliyahu. Furthermore, it is clear that rejection of the appeal does not create an irreversible situation.”

In conclusion the judges wrote that "the petition is cancelled."

Rabbi Eliyahu’s controversial statements, which resulted in Frij’s petition, were made following complaints that Arabs were moving into Jewish neighborhoods and disturbing Jews in Tzfat. The statements in question led to police investigations that ended with no charges being filed.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has told Rabbi Eliyahu that his candidacy for the position of the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel is inappropriate and that Weinstein will not be able to defend his appointment should any appeals be filed against it because of his past statements on Arabs.

MK Frij: I respect the Court’s decision, but we can still file a complaint later
MK Frij responded to the Court’s rejecting the appeal, saying, "I respect the decision of the High Court to reject the petition. What is important is the fact that the rejection was a technical one. The distinguished judges emphasized that this is not a material rejection and that we can bring up the claims against Rabbi Eliyahu again in due course. It appears that the job of defending Israel's moral character now lies on the electoral body which elects the rabbis. I hope that the voting body will listen to the Attorney General, who determined that Rabbi Eliyahu clearly does not deserve the role.”