TEL AVIV – Comments made by Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar that the LGBT community is “a cult of abomination” and gays can be punished by the death penalty according to Jewish law has prompted a firestorm in which police complaints of incitement have been filed against Amar and members of Knesset are calling for his immediate removal.
In an interview over the weekend published in the daily Israel Hayom, Amar answered a question about the LGBT community thusly:
“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, who also served as Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel from 2003 to 2013, dismissed the notion that homosexuality is a natural inclination as “nonsense.”
According to Amar, “there are desires and a person can overcome it if he wants, like all other desires.”
Shirley Charlie Kleinman, an LGBT activist and journalist from Tel Aviv, filed a complaint against Amar claiming that he was inciting murder against homosexuals.
“Rabbi Amar’s comments are explicit incitement to murder,” Kleinman said.
“Every citizen must stand trial for such an offense, all the more so when they are [committed by] influential public figures whose salaries come out of the pockets of men and women in the gay community.
“I am hopeful that I will not be the last person to complain about these hateful statements, which encourage acts on the ground,” she added.
Kleinman called on people to “get involved and complain” even if they 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,” she said.
Amar’s interview sparked an outcry from several lawmakers, including MKs Yael German (Yesh Atid) and Meirav Michaeli (Zionist Union), who called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to remove Amar from his post.
“A public figure that endangers the security of Israel’s citizens through exclusion and incitement should be fired immediately,” the MKs wrote in a letter to Religious Services Minister David Azoulay (Shas).
Meretz party leader Zehava Galon wrote on her Facebook page: “Rabbi Amar can cover himself in the Torah as much as he wants, but we hear his darkness, not the Torah. The time has come to stop paying for his salary. Rabbi Amar receives money from the State of Israel. Does he claim we should execute homosexuals? Does he also recommend stoning, as the Torah teaches?”
Dr. Laura Wharton, a member of the Jerusalem City Council for Meretz who had voted for Amar to be selected as chief rabbi, called on him to retract his comments.
“Your comments are gross incitement, and just one year after the murder of Shira Banki [who marched in 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.
On Saturday night, pro-LGBT rights activists protested outside Amar’s office in Jerusalem waving the rainbow flag.