A storm of criticism and reactions arose on Israeli media on Tuesday about the remarks of Sephardic Chief Rabbi Harav Yitzchak Yosef on non-Jewish immigrants to Israel, which he stated last week at a rabbinical conference.
The Israeli news website Yediot Aharonot published a video on Tuesday morning in which Harav Yosef is seen bemoaning the “hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands” of non-Jewish immigrants that moved to Israel under the amended Law of Return, which allows non-Jewish spouses, children, grandchildren and spouses of children and grandchildren to immigrate to Israel.
Rav Yosef said that many of the non-Jews are haters of religion and they vote for parties which incite against Chareidim and religion and that we’re unfortunately seeing the results of their incitement. Rav Yosef added that many of the non-Jewish immigrants are Christian and attend church every Sunday.
Avigdor Liberman, chairman of the Yisrael Beyteinu party, which is almost entirely comprised of immigrants from the FSU, wasted no time in responding to the video by attacking Rav Yosef and calling for his suspension.
Former Meretz chairman and current Democratic Union MK Tamar Zandberg wrote a letter to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit demanding that an investigation be opened against the Rav on charges of incitement.
Harav Yosef released an official response to the video on Tuesday afternoon, stating: “I said clearly and I’m again saying that along with the welcome immigration of hundreds of thousands of Jews from the FSU who were moser nefesh for many years to preserve their Jewish identity, there is a minority of non-Jewish immigrants who arrived through the ‘grandchild clause’ to the Law of Return which allows non-Jewish people to immigrate to Israel.”
“In my visit to the flourishing Jewish communities in Russia and Ukraine last month, I heard their harsh criticism against the immigration of many non-Jews to Israel,” Rav Yosef emphasized.
“Whoever is bringing masses of non-Jews to Israel through this clause for outside reasons is acting with a lack of integrity first and foremost toward these immigrants and is subjecting them to an impossible reality at every stage of their lives in a Jewish state. Revision of the Law of Return is first and foremost in the interest of these immigrants.”
“Of course, along with the criticism, we as Jews are obligated to accept every resident of Israel and appreciate their contributions to us as a society. Our Torah teaches us to respect everybody as every person is created in the image of Hashem.”
“It is very unfortunate that there are those who feel hurt from the manner my words were blatantly misrepresented by interested political parties who have been inciting for months against the tradition of Yahadus and Halacha. It’s important to state things accurately and truthfully,” Harav Yosef concluded.
“The main person responsible for the incitement between traditional Jews and olim from the former FSU is Avigdor Liberman,” the Shas party said in a statement of support for Harav Yosef. “His personal hatred for Netanyahu drives him out of his mind and it occupies him all day in his attempts to oust the prime minister from his position and attract votes through incitement and fanning the flames between sectors.”
“Liberman is knowingly distorting the words of the Rishon L’Tzion Harav Yitzchak Yosef, who was referring to the population of non-Jewish immigrants which unfortunately is growing due to the breach of the ‘grandchild clause’ in the Law of Return.”
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman also issued a statement of support for Rav Yosef, saying: “Avigdor Liberman is the last person who can preach to others about incitement. This is the man, who from the time he recognized that incitement and hatred can bring him votes, hasn’t ceased to fan the flames between sectors and act in an irresponsible and malicious fashion to divide and damage the delicate balance between the various populations of Israel.”
Over 430,000 people living in Israel are neither Jewish or Arab according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, most of whom are immigrants from the former FSU under the “grandchild clause.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)