Over the past weeks, many rabbis in Israel have publicized halachic rulings forbidding Jews to rent or sell homes to non-Jews. Doing so, they argue, violates Torah prohibitions and causes the deterioration of Jewish neighborhoods. Jews move away from communities when gentiles – in this case, Arabs – move in, leaving neighborhoods and cities transitioning from Jewish to gentile majorities. This is halachically, socially and nationalistically unacceptable. To prevent this, the rabbis insist, Jews must refrain from renting or selling homes to non-Jews.
The halachic basis of these pronouncements is complex and debatable. In theory, gentiles living in Israel have the option of becoming a ger toshav (resident alien) and acquiring full citizen rights under the Torah (as opposed to Israeli citizenship, which is entirely different).
However, according to many authorities, technical reasons prevent anyone from becoming a ger toshav today. Others hold that these technical reasons can be bypassed. If authorities rule strictly, they create a dilemma for gentiles in Israel today. These Israeli citizens cannot rent or buy homes because they are not gerei toshav – but due to no fault of their own they can never attain that status. What are they to do?
The problem is that even discussing this issue in anything other than a theoretical context damages Israel on multiple levels. Yes, the halachic issues are worthy of serious exploration. But they must be seen as hilchisa dimeshicha, rules that will become relevant only in a messianic world. Any other perspective amounts to discrimination, an attitude that supports Israel’s opponents, drives even more American Jews away from supporting Israel and cools the enthusiasm of many of Israel’s unquestioning supporters.
Who can defend such blatant unfairness? Particularly to Americans, such discrimination is distasteful and embarrassing.