On October 29, 2018, the Supreme Court of Israel issued a historic decision, ordering the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General to explain why they had not initiated disciplinary proceedings against Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the Chief Rabbi of Safed, for inciting racism and hatred.
The Chief Rabbi of Safed, Rabbi Eliyahu, is employed by the State of Israel. Yet rather than using his position to bring people together, he uses it to incite Israelis against minority populations in Israel. He has made racist statements against Israeli-Arabs, even operating a hotline in the Safed city hall for residents to call and complain about neighbors who were willing to (God help us) rent their apartments to Arabs.
He has also referred to Israel’s LGBT community as “sick” and “perverted,” and last December, he referred to the Arab population as criminals. In addition to racism, he is also anti-democratic.
In 2015, following a Supreme Court decision to remove an illegally built synagogue in Givat Ze’ev, Rabbi Eliyahu made this public statement: “You should not let the Chief Justice of Israel’s Supreme Court leave her house without yelling after her on the streets. You must embitter their [the Supreme Court Justices’] lives.”
The current Supreme Court order came in response to The Israel Religious Action Center’s most recent petition filed in September 2016, that outlined in detail approximately 100 expressions of severe racism and incitement made by Rabbi Eliyahu.
Anat Hoffman, the long time leader of IRAC has been working to combat Rabbi Eliyahu’s racism and hate speech for over a decade, including monitoring his actions and statements, and filing complaints, petitions, and appeals.
This response shows the Court’s recognition of the severity of Rabbi Eliyahu’s behavior, and sends a clear message to the Minister of Justice that ignoring such (bad) behavior and refusing to take the proper steps against Rabbi Eliyahu is both inexcusable and deplorable.
It is time for Rabbi Eliyahu to be relieved of his title as Chief Rabbi of Safed. His salary of 700,000 shekels a year is 700,000 too much for someone who incessantly and insistently spreads the venom of lashon hara incitement and the scourge of racism in Israel.
Most rabbis in Israel are not racist rabbis, but those who are enjoy de-facto immunity. IRAC is determined to stand up to state-funded rabbis who incite others to racism.
IRAC aims to uphold standards for civil service; and sound an authentic Jewish voice that advocates for equality, coexistence and religious pluralism throughout Israel.