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Eliyahu, chief rabbi candidate, says controversial remarks were distorted

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, a candidate for Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, told the country’s attorney general that controversial remarks attributed to him were taken out of context.

Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Safed, was responding to a request by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to clarify several halachic and public statements he has made in recent years.

Eliyahu responded that he did not make many of the remarks attributed to him and that some were distorted by others.

“Some were never said by me, and some were said in contexts that were radicalized and presented out of the Torah context in which they were said,” Eliyahu wrote in a letter to the attorney general on Sunday.

Eliyahu has instructed Jewish residents of Safed not to rent or sell property to Arabs and, in 2010, he told the Israeli daily Maariv that “a Jew should not flee from Arabs. A Jew should make the Arabs flee. There is a silent war going on here for land” and “most of the violence in Israeli society stems from the Arabs.”

In his letter to the attorney general, Eliyahu said, “I don’t understand what the problem is. Must I, as a rabbi, explain why I am against marriages between Jews and foreigners? Must I explain why I prohibit same-sex marriages? Must I explain why I am in favor of becoming religious?”

He added, “I distinguish between people, Jews and non-Jews, who we are all ordered to respect, and enemies seeking to conspire against us.”

Eliyahu announced last week that he was mounting a campaign for chief rabbi. Following the announcement, Weinstein said Eliyahu’s candidacy was “likely to be found unsuitable and to raise legal difficulties.”

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