Redux in Israel: Disgraceful policies of the Catholic Church

Dec 02, 2010
*Special to asia!

How does a nation so quickly forget the vile racism it endured for generations - which nearly drove it to annihilation - and inflict it carelessly on another?


...these Jews... have erupted into insolence; they presume not only to dwell side by side with Christians and near their churches, with no distinct habit to separate them, but even to erect homes in the more noble sections...” - Papal order Cum nimis absurdum (1555), translated into English



The quote above comes from an order given by Pope Paul IV, 1555.

Not mincing his words, the pontiff pointed out in the very opening line that the guilt of the Jews - in being the ones who crucified Jesus Christ more than a millenium before - “consigned them to perpetual servitude”.

In its graciousness, he added that the Roman Church “tolerates the Jews in testimony of the true Christian faith”.

What follows is a specific guide on how Christians are to separate themselves physically and socially from the Jews.

“... all Jews should live solely in one and the same location, or if that is not possible, in two or three or as many as are necessary, which are to be contiguous and separated completely from the dwelling of Christians.”

Nor should they be so presumptuous as to entertain or dine with Christians...

The pontiff ruled that Jewish men and women are to “wear in full view a hat or some obvious marking”, so they wouldn't blend in with the Christians.

The pope also added, just in case it wasn't clear enough:

“Nor should they be so presumptuous as to entertain or dine with Christians or to develop close relations and friendships with them.”



One of Israel's most influential rabbis Ovadia Yosef ruled that it's against Jewish law to sell properties to non-Jews.

The Chief Rabbi of the town of Safed went one step further. He decreed that it is forbidden to even rent rooms to Arabs - 20 percent of the country's population.

He explained in a letter signed by 17 other rabbis:

“... the ways of life of the Gentiles (non-Jews) are different from those of the Jews, and there are those among them who hate us and harass us to the point of mortal danger.”

In Tel Aviv, a judge in the city's rabbinical court wasted little time in propagating more racism.

Rabbi Dov Domb admonished Jews against renting rooms to foreigners,  unless they “take upon themselves all the spiritual calamities that will follow.”

This was swiftly acted upon by the municipality of Bnei Brak, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish town close to the city. Rabbis there signed a ruling discouraging apartment owners from renting to migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers.

In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the mayor Rabbi Yaakov Asher explained,

“They're hanging about our streets and other cities' streets, a Philippine, a cushi ["Negro"], a Nigerian... they're just taking the entire neighborhood a generation backward.”



Haaretz Magazine recorded a conversation between the Safed rabbi mentioned above and an Arab student from a local college who was renting a room in the town.

To his face, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu explained:

“The rule in life is to do what is true. Not what looks good. The truth is that I think Safed should be Jewish. The Arabs and Muslims now have dozens of countries, 22 countries.”

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad made a similar comment once:

“If European countries claim that they have killed Jews in World War II... why don't they provide the Zionist regime with a piece of Europe."

Ditto US White House correspondent Helen Thomas in June this year. When asked about Israel, she said,

“Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.”

When asked where the Israelis should go, she replied,

“They can go home, Poland, Germany, and America and everywhere else.”



Such are those who refuse to acknowledge the rights of people born in a country.

Helen Thomas was forced to apologise and resigned shortly after.

The rabbis, well, they are still rabbis.



What does one make of this? A people persecuted through history doing exactly the same to another.

A damning cycle of injustice set in motion by history?

Israelis sometimes complain that the international community is more exacting of their country, when they do what the world considers to be morally questionable. We don't make as much noise, when the other countries in the Middle East misbehave, for instance.

Perhaps we are. But this is not the doing of the rest of the world, as much as it is its own. Israel placed itself on the moral highground.

It doesn't get to turn around and perpetuate the same odious attitudes.

A country - established as a homeland for Jews after the Holocaust – should more than any other nation understand what it means to be outcast because of race.

It doesn't get to turn around and perpetuate the same odious attitudes.

But don't take it from me. Take it instead from Nafthali Rothenberg, rabbi of Har Adar in Israel.

In an opinion piece in the Haaretz newspaper, he wrote:

dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

Contact Dan-Chyi