Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi has sparked controversy after saying non-Jews should not be allowed to live in Israel unless they follow a set of Jewish laws.
Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said non-Jews who fail to live by the seven Noahide laws should be expelled to Saudi Arabia, The Times of Israel reports.
Speaking in a sermon on Saturday, the Chief Rabbi said: “If our hands were firm, if we had the power to rule, then non-Jews must not live in Israel.”
“If a gentile does not agree to take on the seven Noahide Laws, we should send him to Saudi Arabia.”
The seven Noahide Laws are a basic moral code outlined in the Talmud. They prohibit actions such as blasphemy, murder, illicit sexual relations, theft and eating live animals, according to The Times of Israel.
Rabbi Yosef added that non-Jews who do agree to abide by the laws will be allowed to remain in Israel in order to serve Jews.
“Who, otherwise be the servants? Who will be our helpers? This is why we leave them in Israel, ” he said.
Rabbi Yosef’s comments have been heavily criticised by the human rights agency Anti-Defamation League, who have called on him to retract the statements.
Jonathon Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO, and Carole Nuriel, acting Director of ADL’s Israel Office, said in a statement the comments were “shocking and unacceptable.”
“It is unconscionable that the Chief Rabbi, an official representative of the State of Israel, would express such intolerant and ignorant views about Israel’s non-Jewish population – including the millions of non-Jewish citizens.”
“As a spiritual leader, Rabbi Yosef should be using his influence to preach tolerance and compassion towards others, regardless of their faith, and not seek to exclude and demean a large segment of Israelis.”
This is not the first time Rabbi Yosef’s comments have stirred controversy. Earlier this month, the Rabbi was criticised for suggesting Israelis should kill knife-wielding terrorists without fear of the law, the Jerusalem Post reports.
"If a terrorist is advancing with a knife, it’s a mitzva [commandment] to kill him,” he said in Jerusalem’s Yazadim Synagogue.
“One shouldn’t be afraid that someone will petition the High Court of Justice or some [army] chief of staff will come and say something different,” he added.
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