Israel’s Sephardi chief rabbi says it’s a ‘mitzvah’ to kill terrorists

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Israel’s Sephardi chief rabbi says it’s a ‘mitzvah’ to kill terrorists

Debate in Israel about how to tackle the wave of violence deepened this weekend after Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said it was a “mitzvah” to kill terrorists.

Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef
Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef

In a controversial edict, Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef told students that it was a religious imperative to kill Palestinians armed with knives, and urged soldiers not to worry about the courts or the army on the matter.

Yosef, who was speaking during his weekly Torah lesson on Saturday night at the Yazdi Synagogue in Jerusalem, said: “If someone comes to kill you, you kill him first… It deters them.”

Last month, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisonkot attacked “slogans like ‘If someone comes to kill you, you kill him first’… I don’t want a soldier to empty a magazine on a girl with scissors”.

Addressing concerns about rules of law and engagement, Yosef said: “Don’t start being afraid with all kinds… that they’ll make about him later in the High Court of Justice, or that some chief of staff will come and say something different.”

The religious leader added: “The moment a terrorist knows that if he comes with a knife he won’t return alive, that will deter them. That’s why it’s a mitzvah to kill him.”

He later ran through the possibility of an unarmed person suspected of being a terrorist is captured on Shabbat, then that person could be killed after Shabbat.

“If some terrorist comes to me now, and I know he’s a terrorist, and we caught him. He doesn’t have a knife in his hand, he doesn’t have anything. And I know, Elijah the Prophet will come to me and tell me that he’s from Amalek. Is it permitted to kill him on Shabbat? No. But Elijah the Prophet says that it’s Amalek. Put him in prison, after Shabbat say a blessing and kill him.”

Ofer Shelah MK said that rabbis should not replace commanders, adding: “At the age when young Israelis risk their lives, [Yosef] was editing his father’s books, yet he purports to decide issues of war ethics and even challenges the chief of staff.”

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said: “The instructions are clear: anyone who pulls out a knife or a screwdriver must be shot dead… If an attack has begun, we must shoot to kill.”

Ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party member Bezalel Smotrich defended Yosef’s “important moral principle” and called his detractors “the sanctimonious crowd”. He added: “Let any terrorist who raises a hand at a Jew know that his blood is on his own head.”

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: