Eli Ben Dahan, number 4 on the Jewish Home party list, came under fire on Monday for speaking out against the institution of homosexual marriage and calling it a “recipe for the destruction of the Jewish people.”
Ben Dahan emphasized in an interview with Walla News that he was not talking about how members of the gay community should be treated, but was specifically referring to the legal recognition of gay marriage.
“Every sociology professor will tell you that the foundation of every nation is the family unit,” said Ben Dahan, a rabbi who holds degrees in business administration and public policy. He said that we cannot recognize a “reality in which we do not create a next generation.”
Orit Zuaretz (Hatnua) blasted both Ben Dahan and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett, saying that “Bennett is trying to run an exercise in camouflage under which extremists enter the Knesset and cause the people to distance themselves from Judaism.”
Hatnua candidate Yoel Hasson added that “Ben Dahan’s harsh words are just the tip of the iceberg of the views of the candidates on the Jewish Home list.”
Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) said that Ben Dahan is displaying “ignorance and detachment from a reality in which thousands of same-sex families have established warm and loving homes.”
The Orthodox gay group HOD also reacted to Ben Dahan’s remarks. HOD chairman Yaron Yosef said that his organization accepts the position of Jewish law against same-sex marriage. However, Yosef added, considering the current reality in Israel, which for example grants legal recognition of marriages performed in Cyprus (in order to bypass the Israeli rabbinate), “we should examine civil legislation that will not upset the religious status quo, but that will enable… civil unions” in order to provide gay couples with the same social and economic benefits enjoyed by married couples.
Yosef further called on Ben Dahan to devote his time and energy to promoting social justice, protecting the weak, and enhancing the general welfare of Jews in Israel and around the world. “Jewish leaders for generations placed as their top priority the unity and the well-being of the nation,” Yosef said. “We call on Rabbi Ben Dahan, on Naftali Bennett and on all other religious MKs from all of the parties to stop using religious homosexuals as a punching bag and to establish a serious, in-depth discussion with us.”
On many religious issues, Ban Dahan is considered to be fairly liberal by many, particularly in the ultra-Orthodox camp. While serving as a rabbinical court judge, Ben Dahan worked to help women whose husbands refused to grant them a writ of divorce (get). According to Jewish law, such a woman is considered an aguna – a chained woman, and is forbidden to re-marry. Ben Dahan was also one of the initiators of the 1994 Law of Sanctions, which stipulated that a rabbinic court had the authority to enforce sanctions against recalcitrant husbands, including revoking driver’s licenses and passports and even imprisonment.
Ben Dahan has also gone against the traditional religious stream by supporting, under certain conditions, the granting of kashrut certificates to restaurants that are open on Shabbat.