The Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel called black people “monkeys” during his weekly sermon on Saturday evening.
Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef was addressing Jewish legal aspects of the blessing on seeing fruit trees blossoming, during the current Hebrew month of Nissan, and, specifically, whether one should bless one tree or at least two.
In that context, he mentioned a blessing uttered upon seeing an “unusual creature,” citing the example of encountering a black person who has two white parents on the street in America.
In footage aired by the Ynet news site, Yosef could be seen referring to black people by the word “kushi,” which in modern Hebrew has pejorative connotations, and then going on to term a black person a “monkey.”
His office told Ynet that the comparison was a quote from the Talmud.
Yosef has been known to court controversy in his sermons.
In a sermon delivered in May last year, he appeared to suggest during his weekly sermon that secular woman behave like animals because they dress immodestly.
In March 2016, Yosef was forced to retract a comment that non-Jews should not live in Israel, calling it “theoretical.”
He said non-Jews could live in Israel only if they observe the seven Noahide Laws, which are prohibitions against idolatry, blaspheming God, murder, forbidden sexual relations, stealing, and eating limbs off a live animal, and which prescribe the establishment of a legal system.
Non-Jews, Yosef said, are in Israel only to serve Jews.
Israel has two chief rabbis. Yosef represents those with origins in the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, and the Middle East, and David Lau represents Ashkenazic Jews, with origins in European lands of the Roman Empire.