I couldn’t have made this up myself if I’d tried: the rabbis of the largely Yemenite city of Rosh Ha-Ayin (English), including the chief rabbi, declared a ban on hiring Arabs at stores which employ Jewish girls. I swear to you, it’s true. If you’d told me this story came out of Pakistan or Kandahar I might’ve believed you, but no, it’s from Israel’s Rosh Ha-Ayin.
Earlier this week, we had Orthodox rabbis ordering Jews not to rent to Arabs. Now, we have rabbis prohibiting hiring of Arabs. Where will it lead and when will it end? Should we have a special Israeli Orthodox Nuremberg-like conclave at which we set down an entire series of halachic rulings governing social interaction with Palestinian Israelis? Shall we call it the Heychal Shlomo* Laws?
The rabbis claim that if young impressionable Jewish girls come under the Svengali-like influence of Arab men they will swoon and give in to their blandishments and so pollute the Jewish gene pool. In other words, that dreaded phenomenon of assimilation, by which they really mean miscegenation. And those shopkeepers who refuse to comply will receive the full religious ostracism and be excommunicated. I didn’t even know Jews did that these days. The last serious excommunication I’d heard about was Baruch Spinoza’s in the Middle Ages (well, a nutcase group of Orthodox rabbis excommunicated all the members of New Jewish Agenda via a pulsa di’nura in the early 1980s because it advocated gay rights and two-states, so perhaps I’m wrong).
When asked about the rabbinic ruling, the municipal authorities (despite the fact that the rabbis are paid and employed by the government) said “it’s not within our authority.” The mayor of the Israeli-Palestinian neighboring village of K’far Kassem replied:
What is this? South Africa?
This move was spurred by reports brought to the chief rabbi that young Jewish girls were seen “keeping company” with Arab men. A letter written to the rabbi claimed:
These girls fall lower and lower and are not always aware of it because we’re speaking of Arabs. They aren’t giving thought to the damage and assimilation this causes.
Rabbi Basis replied:
I see the situation as grave because it leads to assimilation and the violation of very severe prohibitions [against interracial sex].
All of which is very interesting since I’m not aware of any traditional halachic violations against having sex with any non-Jew let alone an Arab. Certainly, there are such prohibitions by settler rabbis (influenced by Meir Kahane’s obsessive and racialist views on the subject).
The former head of the municipal religious council, a follower of Basis, added:
We must make clear to shop owners that any business [conducted with Arabs] must be done on the basis of segregation. And if not [the shop owner refuses], there must be a boycott. So they will be forced to choose from whom they profit the most from [Jewish] consumers or cheap [Arab] labor. There are grave situations in which girls in hardship find themselves [living] with Muhammad in the [Arab] village. Afterwards, you find she gives birth to Ahmed and Fatma. We must also warn the parents of this.
The woman who turned to Rabbi Basis with her complaint said:
What is happening is a catastrophe. I visit these stores and find our pretty Yemenite girls with Arabs who look Jewish. They buy them presents and talk nice to them and so deceive them. Afterwards, they end up in the village and get beaten. Within my own family, someone left her Jewish husband for an Arab because she was pregnant. That’s why I’m so sensitive to the issue.
The mayor of Kfar Kassem reacted with anger and demanded:
Why don’t they come right out and say what they really mean: that Arabs aren’t welcome in Rosh Ha-Ayin. Let them say the honest truth and not conceal it in supposed concern for the girls. This is against any sort of logic in the world. Neighbors should respect each other.
The Rosh Ha-Ayin municipal government responded that it was not in its power to forbid employment of Arabs in local stores, that there are laws governing such matters, and that if the rabbis wish to change them they should do so through the Knesset.
* former Jerusalem seat of the Israel’s chief rabbi