JERUSALEM (JTA) – U.S. Jewish groups condemned rulings by rabbis in the Israeli city of Bnei Brak that ban residents from renting apartments to African refugees.
The Anti-Defamation League on Monday called the decrees issued last week in the haredi Orthodox city "biased pronouncements." Six leading haredi rabbis in Bnei Brak issued a ruling that follows a similar call in July by rabbis in nearby Tel Aviv.
"The decision to rent an apartment to another human being shouldn’t be based on ethnic background," the statement issued from ADL’s Israel office said.
"We encourage the rabbis to follow the Jewish tradition of tolerance and empathy toward other human beings. We call on the religious, political and civic leadership in Israel to stand by the democratic values of acceptance and understanding and speak out against these biased pronouncements."
The American Jewish Committee also condemned the pronouncements.
“This injunction is inspired less by religious belief than by fear and prejudice," said Eliseo Neuman, the director of AJC’s Africa Institute. "Instead of emphasizing the biblical duty to care for the ‘guest in our midst,’ it legitimizes discrimination and stokes hostility, dangerously undermining the principles of equality and tolerance upon which the State of Israel is founded.
“We call on the rabbinical community in Israel, including the Chief Rabbinate, to add its voice and authority in reversing this worrying trend. Israel does face social tensions as a result of the growing migration into the country, but these are only exacerbated by irresponsible pronouncements of this kind.”
According to figures released by Israel’s Population, Immigration and Borders Authority, and cited by AJC, the number of African migrants entering Israel this year has increased by 200 percent.
Approximately 27,000 undocumented migrants from countries across Africa — many of them practicing Christians and Muslims — are estimated to be living in Israel. While many are seeking asylum from persecution in countries such as Sudan and Eritrea, a large number venture to Israel for purely economic reasons.