[Boycott - Other News]
Rabbis protest joint Jewish-Arab event
Avishag Badash-Zabaro, Yediot Aharonot (Ynetnews)
10 May 2007
Rabbis in Rosh Ha'ayin join forces in protest of plan to hold joint Jewish-Arab event for women in town on Friday. 'These gatherings bring to assimilation… Arabs seduce Jewish women,' rabbis warn, but claim they are motivated by religious concerns, not racism
A planned Arab-Jewish event in the town of Rosh Ha'ayin has recently become the focus of heated controversy, after the town's rabbis launched a campaign against the organizers, claiming that the participation of Arab women in the event might corrupt the Jewish residents who attend it.
In a statement published by the town's chief rabbi, Azarya Basis, and four other local rabbis, they wrote, "We unequivocally protest the 'One on One' event of Arab and Jewish women, scheduled to take place this Friday…We hereby warn that such meetings are forbidden according to the Torah… and call on the entire public not to attend this meeting or others like it."
The event, which aims to showcase the projects of 110 Jewish and Arab businesswomen from the town and neighboring villages, is set to include a colorful food and tourism fair and host local and state dignitaries.
However, from the moment the organizers first published the event, they encountered staunch opposition from Rabbi Basis, who claims that he has "no problem" with Arabs. "On the contrary, there is mutual respect and good neighbor relations between Rosh Ha'ayin and Kfar Kassem. However, Rosh Ha'ayin doesn't need this kind of get-togethers. Instead of investing the money in educational institutions and the Torah, they spread it on assimilation meetings.
"When our brothers were murdered, they celebrated on the rooftops. How can we sit together with them?" he asked.
'Jewish women seduced by Arabs'
Basis and the other rabbis who support his struggle have posted signs against the event all across town and convened an urgent meeting of rabbis and religious leaders in which it was decided to hold a demonstration with rabbis from across Israel to protest the convention.
"Assimilation already exists in Rosh Ha'ayin. Forbidden relationships even resulted in babies. I refuse to give legitimacy to such meetings," Rabbi Basis declared.
Rabbi Yehiel Hindi, who also takes part in the struggle, explained that the nature of the planned event violates halachic rules. "In the gathering there would be gentile cooking, drinking and dancing that might create friendships and marriages between the people… it is because of such events that we witness cases of assimilation in the country every day, cases in which Jewish women are seduced by Arabs, and bring miserable families into the world."
Like Basis, Hindi insisted that the protest was strictly motivated by religious concerns, not racism.
Orna Zayeg, head of the town's women's forum and one of the event's initiators, said she still failed to understand what the turmoil was all about. "The last thing we thought is that this can offend anyone," she stated. "I regret the fact that they took a Jewish, humane initiative that aims at creating dialogue between the two people and empower women, and turned in into an anti-religious event."
Kiram Baloum from Taybeh, who runs the Women's Empowerment unit at the Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development and one of the event's organizers, said she was not intimated by the protest. "The haredim represent a sector of the radical religious, but on the other hand there is a lot of cooperation with the people of Rosh Ha'ayin, especially the women."
Rosh Ha'ayin's mayor, Moshe Sinai, also stated that he found no reason to cancel the event. "This is a business fair for Jewish and Arab women aimed at empowering women and emphasizing their abilities," he explained. "It is meant to spotlight the beautiful sides of Israeli society – they are all citizens of the state – and at the same time emphasize the town's pluralistic character, by hosting women from all across the country.
"I think this is a very positive move, which symbolizes unity," Sinai concluded.
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