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Nov 8, 2010

Rabbi Metzger To Decide On Selling Houses To Arabs

I don't know if this is something the Rabbanut, under the leadership and psak of Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger,  should be staying out of or if it is their responsibility to put forward an official psak.

A while back Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, and other rabbonim from around Israel, issued a psak that it is prohibited to sell homes to Arabs in Eretz Yisrael.

The psak, understandably, created a bit of an uproar, with calls coming to have the rabbis involved fired and removed from their positions and from the Rabbanut.

I didn't really get what the big deal was that they had to issue such a psak, as it says right in the Torah that you cannot sell land to non-Jews in the Land of Israel (Lo Techaneim). The psak to this effect is not a new invention, so I don't know what they were adding and why they had to say anything more than quoting the passuk.

Because of the uproar, the Rabbanut, Rabbi Metzger, has been approached to issue a formal ruling from the Rabbanut that will put the matter to rest one way or another.

According to a KikarShabbos report, Rav Metzger is going to be convening the Rabbanut rabbinic council to discuss the matter and to come up with a formal decision.

It seems to me like they should have stayed away from the issue. Just leave it open-ended with some statement quoting the passuk. If they issue a formal psak allowing it, using democracy as the factor, or explaining how it somehow does not apply today, there will be an uproar form the religious community rejecting the Rabbanut because they say the Torah does not apply today. if they issue a prohibition, backing the rabbonim who already said that, they will create an international uproar.

While rabbis have to issue psak and not be concerned about that stuff (unless it is a halachic factor in the issue being debated), this does not really seem to me to be an issue that actually needs their attention..


  1. While rabbis have to issue psak and not be concerned about that stuff...

    Rav Metzger is not the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi because he won a vote as the person who people want most to be their personal posek. Rather, he was given the role as a governmental appointment. Therefore, he should take politics into account when deciding whether or not to issue a psak. Once he's saying something, he can't bend the truth as he sees it. However, it's not unbecoming for him to use his discretion on whether or not to speak up in the first place.

  2. Deut. 7:2 does not say that "you cannot sell land to non-Jews in the Land of Israel." Quoting that pasuk does not offer any clear answer. Bavli AZ 19b-20a offers a number of interpretations for this verse, one of them being "lo titein lahem hanayah be-karkah." Additionally, Rav Kook ruled that Muslims were not included in the prohibition of "lo techaneim." See the links that I posted here. I think that the halakhah is a bit more complicated on this question than you presented.

  3. Rafi,

    It is the responsibility of the Rabbanut to reply to questions that they are asked.

    Menachem Mendel,

    I read your post. You do not relate to all of the issues that Rabbi Eliyahu and his colleagues raise in their letter. Remember, they are the ones that have to apply Torah Law in their community. They are fully qualified and empowered to do so.

    Personally, as a resident of Jerusalem who has had quite a few encounters with Arabs, I do not think that they can be considered even B'nei Noach. Stealing and sexual harassment is rampant among them.

    You can ask questions, but you must do so in a respectful manner. That is aleph-beit in the Beit Hamidrash. I don't want to tell you how Jewish law relates to those the degrade Torah Scholars.

  4. Cosmic X,

    Rabbi Eliyahu writes as if the prohibition of "lo tehaneim" applying to Arabs is an open-and-shut case, and it simply isn't. He is free to decide that the prohibition still stands, but intellectual honesty demands the recognition that his opinion is not necessarily the only one. Rabbi Eliyahu is a government-appointed rabbi, so whoever voluntarily accepted his authority is free to follow what he says, although AFAIK he was appointed and not voted in or formally accepted by anyone.

    I still remember one of our neighbors in Beit Shemesh complaining about how loud a Jewish neighbor was playing his music on shabbat. You can go ahead and say that people shouldn't rent apartments to secular Jews, or Arabs for that matter, or you can try and rationally speak with someone. They may not listen, but they aren't going to disappear.

    As for "Stealing and sexual harassment is rampant among them," criminal stastics available from the Central Bureau of Statistics do point to a higher Arab crime rate, but the question is whether Arab college students are represented in this number, and maybe it is these students who should davka be seen as potential role models for their community.

    "I don't want to tell you how Jewish law relates to those the degrade Torah Scholars."

    Trust me, I'm not worried.

  5. MM suddenly you use the NYT convention of including one's title in this case Rabbi? I think dropping it on your own site is fairly disrespectful regardless of content.

    Rafi - Seems to me the case is different, a general can you ever sell to them vs. Rav Eliyahu's issue with the local influence in Tzfat.

  6. I thought that in Israel even when you buy a home you don't own the land it is built on; the ILA still retains ownership. Does it still work this way?

  7. for the most part. The government put a plan into place over the past couple of years in which land is being privatized and no longer leased. It applies only in certain areas (I dont know where - it was acomplicated plan).


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