Bizarre new ruling from Israeli Orthodox group

Posted on 04 Sep 2009 at 11:52am

Think some things you hear from American right wing Christian groups are loony? Well, we Jews are very proud of our own right wing lunatic fringe as well.

According to the Israeli newspaper HaAretz, one Orthodox Jewish group in Israel has ruled that gay men can marry a woman and still have a male partner.

But there are conditions.

The gay husband can acknowledge he is gay and marry a woman with the understanding that he is not physically attracted to her whatsoever. Any children they have would be conceived artificially or through sexual relations that were only for the sake of reproduction.

At the same time, the gay man may continue a relationship with his male partner, but they would not be allowed to have sexual intercourse. Unclear is whether they may have any type of sexual relations whatsoever, but the rabbis who made this ruling probably only imagine one type of sex.

The husband would be required to undergo counseling with therapists from a group called Atzat Nefesh, whose only purpose is to treat gays and lesbians. Conversion therapy is as discredited by Israeli medical groups as it is by American medical and psychological associations. Since Israel has socialized medicine, it’s not clear who would pay these quacks.

A quote from the Orthodox ruling is that “there is nothing wrong with a close and loyal friendship between two men living with each other,” as long as they refrain from sex.” (All sex or penetration? The translation is unclear).

The ruling claims to adhere to the Bible and in the Bible, polygamy is common.

What is not clear is if the gay men live together, if the gay man lives with the wife or if all three live together. Why would a woman agree to this? Either the rabbis have been watching too much “Will & Grace” (Grace is Jewish, after all, and probably would have married Will) or they applied the Orthodox attitude toward women. A woman, of course, would be seen as little more than property.

The ruling, however, is hailed as liberal. No, not because it allows a relationship outside of marriage or condones an odd three-way relationship. This ruling is liberal because for the first time, an Orthodox body in Israel acknowledges that gay men exist among them.

— David Taffet

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