At The Nexus Of Homosexuality Judaism And Israeli Politics

The issue of male homosexuality is a troubling one for the Israeli religious Zionist community

Gay pride parade in Jerusalem 2018
Copyright: Nettadi [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

For the vast majority of Israelis, secular, traditional, and religious, getting married and starting a family is the pinnacle of aspirations, the crowning achievement of one’s life on this earth. Pregnant women and children are adored, having children and grandchildren grants one social status and bragging rights. The sternest business owner’s’ heart melts at the sight of a barefoot toddler’s pitter-patter across the office floor.

Gay marriage and adoption by gay couples is something that is just becoming possible in Israel, but it is only really an option for the most secular segment of Israeli society. For the more traditional segments, including the religious and observant ones, the problem of homosexuality, especially the male kind is a very painful one.

The biological mechanism of human reproduction is such that female homosexuality does not pose a significant problem. Doubtlessly lesbian women exist in the religious community, but they get married and have children just like their heterosexual sisters. For male homosexuals, the road is much more difficult. The problem is not necessarily one of oppression from above. Religious homosexual men, just like the heterosexual ones, believe in God and want to marry women and have children. Unfortunately, their biological makeup does not give them that option.

I suspect that in the past, and not a very remote one at that, these problems were kept quiet and the people involved were treated like those with any other physical or mental disability; they lived out their lives quietly, behind closed doors and averted eyes, with many a “God have mercy” whispered behind their backs and many a pitying glance directed at their parents.

Today, with the religious communities no strangers to social media, this approach is no longer possible. The embrace of the homosexual agenda by Israel’s civil state and secular community has thrust it into the limelight with gay pride parades held annually in the largest Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem attracting much attention, both positive and negative.

This has revived interest in the so-called “conversion therapy”, a controversial topic to say the least and a political trap into which the minister of education Rafi Peretz, the head of the religious-Zionist Bait Yehudi party had just stepped with both feet. Expressing support for these widely discredited “treatments”, Peretz had brought on himself widespread condemnation, including from prominent religious-Zionist politicians like his predecessor at the ministry of education Naftali Bennett.

The issue of homosexuality is a complicated and complex one, especially in Israel, where it seems to be tailor-made to drive an even deeper wedge between the progressive secular and the traditional religious communities. The proximity to the September election, an election that was only called because the previous one failed to properly address the issue of secular-religious divide in Israel, is making things worse. Unfortunately, we can expect divisions to deepen and old wounds to reopen as the election campaign ramps up for real at the end of the summer holidays.

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