What does the Torah say about gays
A glimmer of hope for Jewish Orthodox homosexuals?
In 2011 Tel Aviv was named the most gay-friendly state in the world. Even today, same-sex couples wander the streets of the city waving a rainbow flag when the Gay Pride is celebrated. Only a few kilometers away, in Jerusalem - the cradle of religion - the situation is completely different. But now there is hope.
Not only there, but also in other Israeli cities, homosexuals cannot freely express their sexual orientation. This applies above all to the Jewish Orthodox community, because according to "Halacha" - the legal system of Judaism - it is not allowed to enter into sexual relationships with same-sex partners. This has become a problem for many Jewish Orthodox homosexuals. They had to choose between their beliefs and their sexuality. The members of the Jewish Orthodox community ran away. The organization Beit Hillel wants to fight against this.
We must be more lenient and do more social inclusion so that homosexuals are accepted in our communities.
Beit Hillel: This is a group of Israeli and American Orthodox rabbis who published a text on Sunday calling on the Jewish Orthodox communities to be more tolerant with their homosexual members - regardless of whether they are men or women. There are months of work behind the text.
The trigger was the current social development to which the rabbis of Beit Hillel wanted to react. "More and more homosexuals decide to stay in their religious communities, which they would have left earlier because of their sexual orientation. In the past one was either religious and orthodox or homosexual, today both can be the case at the same time." The Jewish Orthodox community has to adapt to this development if it does not want to continue losing members: "We need to be more lenient and do more for social inclusion so that homosexuals are accepted in our communities."
A first step towards acceptance
What sounds so simple is not in reality. Because according to "Halacha" - the legal interpretation of the Torah - sexual relations between same-sex persons are forbidden. This is also reminiscent of the document submitted by Beit Hillel. Nonetheless, it is a first step towards acceptance of homosexual Jews who would like to live according to religious, orthodox rules. The text has since been officially presented at a conference with the relevant name "Halacha and the keeping of the members - the relationship of the religious community to homosexuals". The occasion was a congress in the Israeli city of Ra’anana, 20 kilometers from Tel Aviv.
Homosexuality: a hot topic in Israel
The debate about the place of gay and lesbian Jews in Israel and Judaism, especially Orthodox Judaism, is not new. It wasn't rekindled until July 2015 when 16-year-old Shira Banki was killed by an ultra-Orthodox extremist at Jerusalem Gay Pride. Her killer, Yishai Shlissel, had just been released from prison after serving ten years in prison for an attack at Jerusalem Gay Pride in 2005 that injured three people. For Shira Banki's parents, Beit Hillel's initiative is an important step. You were present at the Ra’anana conference when the organization presented your text.
We are proud that our situation is being addressed in writing, namely in this historical document, and we hope that it will open a discussion between equal people.
The content of the text is based strictly on religious Jewish law. Shlomo Hecht, leader of Beit Hillel, said that it aims to provide directives based on the "Halacha" that should explain how people with homosexual orientation can be kept in religious communities. You can do this by taking a closer look at the Torah. The Hebrew Bible prohibits same-sex sexual relations, but not homosexual orientation. "So people who have a homosexual orientation, whether men or women, are not excluded on the basis of halacha or morality alone. They are obliged to obey the commandments of the Torah and can take on any function in the community, just like every other parishioner too. "
"An important stage" without being revolutionary
Now the only question that remains unanswered is the extent of the Beit Hillel text. To what extent can he change mentalities and behaviors? Around 170 Orthodox and Zionist rabbis work at Beit Hillel, some of whom are well known and influential. The organization is strictly based on the principles of Halacha and fights for greater inclusion, especially of women, in Orthodox Judaism.
As some Israeli media point out, Beit Hillel's statement, while not revolutionary, is progress. "Beit Hillel's text is not about how individual Orthodox communities deal with gays, nor does it provide any innovative solutions for orthodox homosexuals"as the American website Jewish Press writes.
The Havruta Association, which consists of homosexual and Orthodox Jews, is enthusiastic. She evaluates Beit Hillel's statement as "historical" and see in it "an important stage in the struggle for recognition, acceptance and integration without hiding. We are proud that our situation is being considered in writing, namely in this historical document and we hope that it will open a discussion between equal people."
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