Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, head of the ultra Orthodox Eda Haredit rabbinic court and a leading opponent of the planned gay pride march in Jerusalem, said Tuesday that he was opposed to violence against homosexuals.
"We must protest the desecration of the Holy Land," said Sternbuch in a phone interview. "But we must do it nonviolently." Sternbuch was responding to a pamphlet distributed in Jerusalem that promised a NIS 20,000 bounty for killing a homosexual. In addition to the bounty offer, the two-page pamphlet also provided directions complete with hand-drawn diagrams how to construct weapons that could be used to attack homosexuals.
The three preferred weapons were a Molotov cocktail, a rock-filled sock and a nail-studded stick. The Molotov cocktail was nicknamed a "Schlissel Special" and the stick was called a "Schlissel Spike." Both were named after Yishai Schlissel.
During last year's gay pride parade, Schlissel, a haredi resident of Jerusalem, used an 18-centimeter knife to stab three people, two 18-year-olds and one 50-year-old man. One was moderately wounded and two were lightly wounded.
Eda Haredit's rabbinic court has issued several notices, or pashkevilim, calling to "do everything in your power" to stop the march. However, Sternbuch denied that this implied the use of violence.
Often, the wording of the notices is not done by the rabbis. Rather, they sign a general statement that is later expanded into a detailed notice by aides or functionaries, explained an Eda Haredit source.
One of the Eda Haredit notices attacked "a religious party" for suggesting that the march be moved from Jerusalem to another city in Israel. The reference was to Shas. Rabbi Ovadia Yossef has threatened to support a no-confidence vote in the government proposed by United Torah Judaism unless the gay pride march is moved from Jerusalem to another city in Israel.
Sternbuch said he opposed a gay parade in any part of Israel.
"This is the Holy Land," said Sternbuch. "That type of thing has no place here." Sternbuch also criticized Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar for appealing to Pope Benedict XVI.
"It is a show of weakness as if the Jewish people is not strong enough to fight its own battles," said Sternbuch.
Hagai El-Ad, director of "Open House," a gay activist organization that is planning the gay pride parade for August, said in response, "We call for the immediate halt of incitement against the homo-lesbian community. Despite the waves of hatred, we will not give in."
A Jerusalem police spokesperson said that an investigation was being conducted to reveal the identity of the authors of the potentially incendiary pamphlets.
Yisrael Eichler, former UTJ MK and head of the Center for Jewish Hasbara, doubted that haredim were behind the pamphlets.
"The haredim have an interest in talking about the subject as little as possible," said Eichler. "In contrast, the organizers [of the march] are interested in as much publicity as possible. My conclusion is that one of the organizers wrote those pamphlets to besmirch the haredim and manipulate public opinion."