Outrage was directed at Israel’s newly elected Chief Rabbi this week, after comments made by him, and widely perceived as racist, came to light.
David Lau, the new Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, told yeshiva students that they should not watch basketball or take an interest in the achievements of the players, many of whom are black, or — in the derogatory Hebrew term — kushim.
“Why do you care whether these kushim who are paid in Tel Aviv beat the kushim who are paid in Greece,” he asked.
Itzik Shanan, the founder of Let’s Kick Racism Out of Israeli Football organisation, described this as a “poor example to everyone who cares about Israel, about sport, and about our society.”
Another comment suggested that “there are a lot of things that the Chief Rabbi can do for the welfare of the ‘strangers’ among us, and it’s a shame that one of the first things we hear… was against the ‘other.’”
Among politicians condemning the remarks, was the Ethiopian female MK Pnina Tamano-Shata of Yesh Atid.
Supporters of Rabbi Lau say he was not being racist, but stressing that players for Israeli teams are not actually Israelis, and also played down the offensiveness of “kushim”.
The Chief Rabbinate declined to comment.