Former chief rabbi Shlomo Amar at Western Wall.
(photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Two complaints of incitement have been filed to the police against Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar for comments he has made calling men and women from the LGBT community “a cult of abomination,” and stating that they are liable to the death penalty according to Jewish law.
Several more complaints are expected to be filed on Friday.
Amar’s comments created a fierce political backlash from members of Knesset and the Jerusalem City Council who helped get the rabbi, who was Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel from 2003 to 2013, elected to his current post.
Amar made his comments in an interview with Yisrael Hayom
to be published this weekend.
In the interview, Amar said that he related to Reform Jews through the prism of the biblical injunction to “turn away from the tents of evil people.”
Asked about his attitude toward the LGBT community, the rabbi said, “This is a cult of abomination, this is clear. This is an abomination. The Torah requires a death sentence for this. This is in the first row of the most severe transgressions.”
Amar also rejected the notion that someone may have a homosexual inclination, calling it “nonsense” and arguing instead that “there are desires and a person can overcome it if he wants, like all other desires.”
Following publication of a preview of the interview on Thursday morning, at least one person, Shirley Charlie Kleinman, went to a police station in Tel Aviv to file a complaint against Amar for incitement to murder against homosexuals and posted on Facebook the information sheet she received from the police following submission of the complaint.
“Get involved, be active, complain,” Kleinman wrote on her Facebook page.
“Exercise your civil rights and complain, and be supportive even if you are not from the gay community. Let’s try and ensure that this man will not remain in his key public position. This is not an anti-religious issue, I have nothing against religion, every person shall live in accordance with their faith. I do have an interest to protect my rights and your rights to live, and [to live with] dignity.”
Following the publication of Amar’s comments, several politicians spoke out against him, including MKs Yael German (Yesh Atid) and Meirav Michaeli (Zionist Union) who wrote to Religious Services Minister David Azoulay of Shas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling on them to fire Amar.
The MKs wrote in their letter that Amar was “exploiting his position” as a public figure and opinion leader “for a campaign of dangerous incitement against a large public group in Israel,” adding, “A public figure who endangers the safety of Israeli citizens by discrimination and incitement should be fired from their position immediately.”
Dr. Laura Wharton, a member of the Jerusalem City Council for Meretz, wrote a letter to Amar calling on him to retract his comments.
Wharton also noted she was a member of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel and that before Amar was elected, by a special electoral body, as Sephardi chief rabbi of Jerusalem in 2014, Amar had met with her and Masorti Rabbi Ehud Bandel.
She also noted that because of Amar’s reception of her and Bandel, she had voted for him as a member of the electoral body.
“Your comments are gross incitement, and just one year after the murder of Shira Banki [at the 2015 Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade], I would have expected that you would know they are destructive of our society,” Wharton wrote to the rabbi.
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