Israeli top rabbi calls black people 'monkeys' during sermon

Israel top rabbi under fire after calling black people 'monkeys' during sermon
2 min read
21 March, 2018
One of Israel's chief rabbis has come under fire for likening African-Americans to monkeys during a recent sermon explaining Jewish law, local media has reported.
Israelis of African descent have long complained of commonplace discrimination [Getty]

One of Israel's chief rabbis has come under fire for likening African-Americans to monkeys during a recent sermon explaining Jewish law, local media has reported.

Yitzhak Yosef, the top rabbi for Sephardi Jews or those of Middle Eastern descent, made the controversial comments on Saturday while explaining religious scripture on making blessings during the current Hebrew month.

"You can't make the blessing on every 'kushi' you see - in America you see one every five minutes, so you make it only on a person with a white father and mother," Yosef explained, using an offensive term in modern Hebrew for Africans.

"So you make it only on a person with a white father and mother. How do would you know? You know if they had a monkey for a son," the rabbi added.

The Talmud dictates that Jews must make blessings when seeing fruit trees blossoming and "unusual creatures" such as "black people, or very red or very white people" during the month of Nissan (April).

The religious leader, who is one of the country's two chief rabbis, has been harshly condemned for the remarks.

A spokesperson for Yosef has defended the rabbi, arguing there was a religious context to his comparison.

Jewish group the Anti-Defamation League tweeted that the rabbi's comment was "utterly unacceptable".

British-based newspaper The Jewish Chronicle issued a statement, accusing Yosef of "betraying his office".

"He should be working to eliminate all forms of racism, not voicing backwards ideas," said Jonathan Arkush, president of the JC's board.

Israeli authorities have recently been accused of racism over a controversial policy to expel or indefinitely imprison thousands of African migrants.

Israelis of African descent, most of whom immigrated from Ethiopia in the 80s, have long complained of crushing poverty, police brutality and commonplace discrimination in Israel.