An unexpected meeting occurred over the weekend between Orthodox rabbis of the Religious Kibbutz Movement and their wives, and members of Havruta, the LGBT religious organization.
The two groups were coincidentally staying at the same resort during Shabbat, and formed a spontaneous discussion circle on homosexuality and religion, led by Avicahi, a member of Havruta, and his rabbi, Yehuda Gilad.
Avichai opened with his personal coming out story, and Rabbi Yehuda Gilad filled in parts that he was involved in as his Kibbutz’ rabbi, and gave his two cents. The gay men and the rabbis and their wives were listening carefully. A couple of women nodded. Daniel, Executive Director of Havruta, was the next to talk. “It’s time that you stop looking at us through a prism of [Bible-law] violation,” he said.
Eyal Liebermann, a member of Havruta, took to Facebook to bring into the circle the words of Yehonatan, an orthodox yeshiva student:
“There are three paths to choose from for the gay man who wants to act according to the Bible,” Yehonatan said. “The first, to live with another man, with restrictions and various limitations-some [orthodox] rabbis will support that. The second, to go through, or not, conversion therapy and then marry a woman, and tell her, or not, and then get into established cheating habits – some rabbis support that too.
“The third option is to abstain from sex, with psychiatric help to handle the emotional damage, and though there are rabbis who support that, a lot of them say that not only is this option impossible, but is against biblical law, due to the damage a person causes himself.
“Now take me,” continues Yehonatan. “I’m doing the best I can to avoid breaking the biblical laws. I understand that I can’t go on by myself and I want to have someone next to me. Now tell me what are the restrictions that I have to accept so that it will be possible not only by law, but also acceptable by the public. There’re none!”
“Yehonatan was speaking fluently and with a lot of pain,” writes Liebermann. “He studies at a Yeshiva, with some rabbis who support him and others who don’t, and the price he pays in order to be part of the system is very heavy. The rabbis in the circle were quiet, until one of the educators in the circle spoke.”
‘I’m shocked by the options you presented,”the educator said, “some of which I couldn’t even think of myself. There’s no reasonable option other than living in a relationship with a man, naturally!’
Liebermann says that though this meeting was accidental, it wasn’t the first of its kind. Prior to it there was a vibrant discussion, and participation in the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem by some of them. “This meeting was different, though, from everything I’ve seem in the past 15 years,” he says, “because it was the first time gay men and rabbis were sitting together, talking about the subject on eye level. It wasn’t a rabbi who came to preach at men not to be gay. It wasn’t a case of rabbis hearing about the LGBT community in a workshop with psychiatrists. I always say, ‘talk to us-not about us,’ and finally it happened.”