The chief rabbi of Israel on Saturday night appeared to suggest during his weekly sermon that secular woman behave like animals due to their immodest dress.
Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Itzhak Yosef also lamented that the non-religious community is unaware of how much respect religious Jews supposedly have for women.
In other comments, he advised religious IDF soldiers who find themselves at army events where women are singing to remove their eyeglasses and conspicuously read from a book to demonstrate that they are not participating.
“If the secular knew how much we respect the woman; everything we do is for a woman’s dignity,” Yosef said according to a Sunday report by the Hebrew-language Kikar Hashabat website that serves the religious community. “A woman is not an animal, she has to keep her dignity. To be modest [in her dress] is her dignity.”
Religious demands for modest dress and behavior by women is a cause of friction in the religious-secular divide in Israel with the latter seeing such requirements as sexual discrimination.
In advice to soldiers, Yosef noted that due to his position he is sometimes required to attended official ceremonies that include singing performances by women. Recalling an event he was at that was also attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, Yosef said that when the women started singing he made an obvious display reading from a book that he held up in front of his face to show that he wasn’t listening.
“That way they could all see that I am not listening, my head is in the book, close to what matters,” he explained and instructed religious soldiers to do the same under similar circumstances.
According to religious tradition, if is forbidden for men to hear a woman sing solo, or at all if it is outside of a religious service.
The exclusion of women from musical performances to satisfy religious sensibilities is a controversial subject in Israel, with religious groups often pushing to have women barred from performing in public.
Yosef’s father, Ovadia Yosef, also a chief rabbi, was also known for making controversial statements at his Saturday night sermons, including derogatory comments about Arabs, Muslims and Holocaust victims.
AFP contributed to this report.