Israeli supreme court allows controversial chief rabbi candidate to run

(JTA) — Israel’s Supreme Court will allow Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who has made derogatory statements about Arabs and homosexuals, to run for the post of Sephardi chief rabbi.

The court on Monday rejected a petition to bar Eliyahu from running based on the statements, according to Haaretz. The petition was submitted by Meretz MK Issawi Freij. Freij’s lawyer said that Eliyahu’s statements are “not expressing a legitimate view from someone who sees himself as worthy of serving as Israel’s chief rabbi.”

Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of the northern city of Safed, has in the past called on Jewish residents not to sell or rent property to Arabs. The statement was the subject of a criminal investigation by Israel’s attorney general last year.

The court ruled, though, that the petition was premature and would be reconsidered if Eliyahu is elected in balloting set for Wednesday.

Eliyahu’s attorney said that the statements in question were made as specific Jewish legal rulings, and that “the rabbi respects every person as an individual.”