Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef
Pope Francis (R) stands next to Israel's Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef in Jerusalem May 26, 2014. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Israel's Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef has stirred up controversy by saying that non-Jews should not be allowed to live in Israel if they do not follow the set of seven laws mandated by Judaism. They should be sent to Saudi Arabia, he said.

Speaking in a sermon on 26 March he said: "According to Jewish law, gentiles should not live in the Land of Israel. If a gentile does not agree to take on the seven Noahide Laws, we should send him to Saudi Arabia."

He continued: "When the true and complete redemption arrives, that is what we will do," the Times of Israel reported. He claims that the only reason non-Jews are still allowed to live in Israel is because the Messiah has yet to arrive.

"If our hand were firm, if we had the power to rule, that's what we should do. But the thing is, our hand is not firm, and we are waiting for the Messiah," he said.

Yosef said that gentiles who agree to take on the Noahide Laws will be allowed to remain and "fulfil roles reserved for gentiles in the service of Jews." The Noahide Laws are a basic moral code that includes prohibitions on denying the existence of God, blasphemy, murder, illicit sexual relations, theft and eating from a live animal.

Making controversial statements is nothing new to the rabbi. The newspaper said that two weeks ago, he had said that Israelis should kill life-threatening knife-wielding terrorists without fear of the law.

"If a terrorist shows up with a knife, it is commanded [by Jewish law] to kill him," Yosef had said at the Yazadim Synagogue in Jerusalem. "You shouldn't be afraid," he said, quoting from the ancient rabbinic exhortation that states: "He who comes to kill you, arise to kill him [first]."

In early 2015, Yosef told one of his students, whose mobile phone rang during a class he was leading, to bring a bowl of water. "He went to bring a bowl of water, and put it on the desk. I put it [mobile phone] inside, it bubbled and was gone. The phone was gone," he recounted.