At a time when violence between Israelis and Palestinians is at an all-time high, a Sephardic chief rabbi is making matters worse by delivering incendiary sermons.
Yitzhak Yosef prompted outrage after saying non-Jews who do not adhere to the set of seven laws mandated by Judaism should be expelled from Israel.
“According to Jewish law, it’s forbidden for a non-Jew to live in the land of Israel – unless he has accepted the seven Noahide laws,” Rabbi Yosef said during his weekly lecture on March 26. “If he’s not willing to accept one of them, [which is] not to commit suicide, if he’s not willing to accept this, you send him to Saudi Arabia.”
However, he added, some non-Jews can stay if they pledge to serve the Jewish population.
“Who will be the servers? Who will be our assistants? Therefore, we leave them here in the land,” he said.
Predictably, the audio of the sermon stirred backlash from both inside and outside of Israel. Immediately responding to the criticism, Yosef’s office released a statement, explaining his words referred to a “theoretical” post-Messianic situation.
“These laws are theoretical, refer to fulfilling the seven Noahide Laws in the days of the messiah, and have no connection to the present day,” the statement read. “It’s clear that there’s no law in our time, God forbid, to expel non-Jews from Israel.”
This isn’t the first time Yosef, son of former Israeli chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has triggered controversy with his remarks.
As Israeli military chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot called for less use of excessive force by Israeli soldiers against knife-wielding Palestinian assailants, Yosef insisted that it is a “religious imperative” to kill such attackers.
Since October, a series of stabbings by Palestinians has killed 28 Israelis. During the same time, Israeli forces killed 180 Palestinians in the West Bank, including 41 minors. An additional 2,177 children were injured during the same period, according to the United Nations.