Israel's Chief Rabbi Denies Urging the Expulsion of non-Jews

Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef also denies Israeli media reports he had sanctioned killing Palestinian assailants once they have been wounded or taken into custody.

Israel's Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, 2015.
Lior Mizrahi

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef on Tuesday denied urging the expulsion of non-Jews from Israel in a weekend sermon in which he was quoted to have said it was “forbidden for a non-Jew to live in the Land of Israel.” 

A statement from Yosef’s office said his sermon on Saturday had referred to a theoretical post-Messianic situation and that his comments “have no bearing on current times.”

“What is clear is that there is no law in our time that calls for the expulsion of non-Jews from the country, “ the statement said.

Yosef further denied he had called on killing any Palestinian attackers taken into custody or wounded at the scene. The statement said he “has always acted in the name of reconciliation.”

“Contrary to reports, he was one of the only people to declare that a neutralized terrorist should not be killed but handed over to law enforcement authorities,” the statement said.

It accused Israeli media of choosing to “distort these words, take them out of context and present them in a negative light.”

Channel 10 television, in an item picked up by other media as well, reported earlier this week that Yosef could be heard saying in his Saturday night sermon that  “according to Jewish law, it’s forbidden for a non-Jew to live in the Land of Israel – unless he has accepted the seven Noachide laws.”

“The seven Noachide laws include prohibitions on idolatry, blasphemy, murder, illicit sexual relations, stealing and eating the limb of a living animal, plus a positive commandment to establish court systems.  

Two weeks ago, Yosef was quoted to have said in his weekly sermon that “if someone is coming with a knife – it’s a commandment to kill him,” in a clear reference to the latest wave of knifing attacks against Israelis inside the country and in the territories.