Israel’s most politically influential rabbi has courted controversy by claiming that the deadliest forest fire in the country’s history was divine retribution for the failure of many Israelis to observe the Sabbath…
Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Shas, a powerful religious party in Israel’s coalition government, said there was little doubt that the fire was sent by God to punish his chosen people for their waywardness.
In his weekly sermon, the rabbi quoted a section from the Talmud, a central Jewish religious text, which proclaimed that “the fire only exists in a place where the Sabbath is desecrated”.
“Homes were ruined, entire neighbourhoods wiped out, and it’s not arbitrary,” he said. “It is all divine providence. We must repent and keep the Sabbath properly…”
For many ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel, Rabbi Yosef is the most important religious authority in the land and his comments drew little criticism from government officials wary of upsetting a powerful coalition partner.
Sound familiar? Religious nutballs with highly-placed buddies in government trying to order the whole population of a nation how to live and die according to their own narrow superstition?