An incoming Knesset member for the ultra-Orthodox Shas party has for years been making disparaging statements about women, blaming immodest clothing for breast cancer and miscarriages and claiming women who expose their bodies are reincarnated as cows.
Rabbi Baruch Gazahay has posted hundreds of Hebrew-language YouTube videos over the last four years voicing his opinions on various subjects. He has more than 8,000 subscribers and has garnered more than 2 million views.
Gazahay was set to enter the Knesset along with others following the final approval Monday night of the so-called Norwegian Law, which lets ministers resign from parliament and be replaced by the next person on their party’s electoral slate.
Gazahay, 38, who was born in Ethiopia and came to Israel as an infant, heads the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in Beersheba. He is married and has five children.
He became religious as an adult and shortly afterwards began delivering public lessons on morality and Jewish law.
In one such lesson in 2016, he said: “Damn the Bedouins, may God take them, they buy the girls’ hearts by saying how pretty they are. She doesn’t care who says it, even if a parrot tells her that, she will get excited.”
“A woman must be modest in her clothing,” he continued. “Unfortunately, in this generation there has been a small confusion. Women think they are men. How did women end up wearing pants? I’m dying to know. You’re a woman! How do you wear pants? You’re with pants and your husband is with pants, the poor child gets confused, who’s the father and who’s the mother?”
He quoted an alleged saying by rabbis that “a woman who is used to exposing her upper body is usually reincarnated as a cow, because its udder is exposed.
“A woman must be covered. That, by the way, is one of the reasons women get breast cancer. Because everyone’s eyes are upon them, and it gives them the evil eye,” he added.
“It is the reason pregnant women have miscarriages. She gets pregnant and straightaway posts a photo of her belly on Facebook. Tell me, are you insane?”
In a separate clip, Gazahay said a man shouldn’t respond when a woman he doesn’t know strikes up a conversation with him. Giving the example of a supermarket cashier, he said: “You bought something? Shut up and say, ‘Miss, this is what I bought.'”
If the woman tries to speak with the man, he should tell her he will call the police, he said.
In a third video, Gazahay said a man “has to have authority in the house.” He said that when a woman is distressed over something that happened at work, her husband shouldn’t sympathize with her and “cry together with her.”
“She wants a man!” Gazahay said, saying the husband should show willingness to go and assault the person who wronged her with a kitchen knife. “Do you know how happy she would be?” he said.
In another lesson, Gazahay said women who come to work in a tight shirts should be paid half their salary.
Not all the controversial content has to do with men and women. In February 2020, he uploaded a video mocking those who believe the universe began with the Big Bang and those who put stock in the theory of evolution. “You need to be a monkey to think we evolved from monkeys,” he said, laughing.
Following reports about the videos, Shas leader Aryeh Deri said he had spoken to Gazahay and “made it clear that these remarks are unacceptable and do not represent the Shas movement, and Rabbi Gazahay understood this.”
According to Deri’s statement, Gazahay claimed the reported remarks were “a few sentences taken out of context from a two-hour lesson in front of his students about four years ago.”
However, Gazahay’s YouTube channel features many videos with similar content up until late 2019. Last October, he uploaded a lesson in which he called a woman “insolent” for wearing a wig instead of covering her hair with a scarf. He said the woman died shortly after rebuffing a rabbi’s demand that she stop wearing a wig, and her hair underneath it had turned into snakes.
In August 2019, he posted a video saying a man should shut up and nod when his wife tells him about her problems, and should find ways to ignore her while pretending to be listening.