| Updated at: 1239 PST, Thursday, December 30, 2010|
JERUSALEM: At least 27 Israeli rabbis' wives have signed a letter calling on Jewish women to avoid intermarriage with Arabs and even avoid working alongside Arab men, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.
The letter also warns Jewish women they risk falling under the sway of Arab men if they serve alongside them in Israel's national service.
"For your sake, for the sake of future generations, and so you don't undergo horrible suffering, we turn to you with a request, a plea, a prayer," said the text of the letter as quoted in media reports.
"Don't date non-Jews, don't work at places that non-Jews frequent, and don't do national service with non-Jews."
The letter accuses Arab men of using Jewish names to deceive unsuspecting women, and warns a life of "curses, beatings and humiliations" awaits them if they date or marry an Arab.
"There are quite a few Arab workers who use Hebrew names. Yusuf becomes Yossi, Samir becomes Sami and Abed becomes Ami," the letter was quoted as saying.
"They ask to be close to you, try to find favour with you, and give you all the attention in the world... but their behaviour is only temporary. The moment you are in their hands, in their village, under their control, everything changes.
"Your life will never go back to the way it was, and the attention you so desired will turn into curses, beatings, and humiliations," the letter warns.
Among the signatories to the letter are the wives and daughters of senior rabbis, including the daughter of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual head of the ultra-Orthodox party Shas, which is part of Israel's coalition government.
The letter is reportedly being distributed by a group called Lehava (Flames), an organisation that seeks to prevent Jewish assimilation and says it draws inspiration from the legacy of anti-Arab rabbi Meir Kahana.
Kahana, who was assassinated in New York in 1990, led the Kach movement, which promoted an extreme right-wing racism against Arabs that led to it being banned in Israel in 1994.
The letter comes as rights groups warn of a rising tide of anti-Arab sentiment in Israeli society.
In recent weeks, about 300 rabbis have signed a letter calling on Jews to avoid renting or selling property to non-Jews, and right-wing groups have staged demonstrations warning Jews against fraternising with Arabs.
The rabbis' letter drew widespread condemnation, including from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but a poll published on Tuesday showed Israelis are evenly divided on the issue.
The survey, which had a margin of error of 4.5 percent, found 44 percent of Israeli Jews supported the rabbis' calls, while 48 percent were opposed.