New Israeli religious group aims to combat LGBTs for ‘destroying family values’

Movement will launch online campaign against surrogacy and adoption rights, plans to hold demonstration in Tel Aviv

Members of the LGBT community and supporters participate in a demonstration against a Knesset bill amendment denying surrogacy for same-sex couples, in Tel Aviv on July 22, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A new religious group will launch a campaign on Tuesday against the LGBT+ community and in support of the “traditional family,” and plans to hold a demonstration in which protesters will attempt block a central junction in Tel Aviv.

“Choosing Family — the Movement for Strengthening Family Values in Israel” was founded last week by Rabbi Azriel Ariel, of the West Bank settlement Ateret, and Rabbi Itai Elitzur.

The conservative organization will publish and distribute informational material written by far-right activist Michael Pua, criticizing the “process of destroying traditional family values in the Western world, which is trickling into Israeli society and even into the religious community.”

The campaign and protest are likely to be highly controversial, especially with the demonstration planned to take place in the center of gay-friendly Tel Aviv. The protest is planned for Sunday evening at Azrieli Junction.

In a booklet published by the organization, it claims that discourse is “causing and strengthening phenomena that necessarily bring about trafficking of children and women,” apparently referring to gay couples adopting children and using the services of surrogate mothers.

It also claims homosexuality is a choice that can be overcome, likening sex between two men or two women to eating poison and condemning the “aggressive propaganda” of LGBT groups.

Likud party politician Amir Ohana (left) and his partner seen at Ben Gurion International Airport as they arrive back from the US with their surrogate babies, on September 26, 2015. (Flash90)

“When a person is very hungry and is presented with appetizing food, they have a strong urge to eat it,” the booklet says. “That urge is translated into actual reactions in the stomach, mouth dryness etc. But the moment that person is told that the food contains poison that causes the immediate death of whoever consumes it, or that it contains pork — their urge to eat that food will immediately evaporate.”

“We don’t seek to harm or offend the LGBT,” the group added. “We want to further explain the issue and stress the halacha [religious law] problems to anyone who is interested in really understanding the sensitive issue.”

The movement defined “family integrity” as “one of the most sacred values” in Judaism, claiming that its ostensible abandonment was causing a crisis and halting population growth in Western countries.

Rabbi Ariel said in a statement that “the family covenant is a sacred value, upon which all the necessary values for a healthy and moral society are based: fraternity and mutual completion, devotion and concession, loyalty and responsibility for the collective.”

Participants fly an Israeli and pride flag at demonstration in Tel Aviv on July 22, 2018, to protest a new surrogacy law that does not include gay couples. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

At the end of July, some 200 Israeli Orthodox rabbis penned a letter that called homosexuals “perverts” and accused them of brainwashing the public. They were responding to criticism of Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern, who had said homosexuals were “forbidden” and the children they raised had “very strange and unnatural lives.”

Referring to the annual gay pride parade in Jerusalem, the rabbis wrote that most Israelis “are shocked by the provocation and loss of way of the abomination groups.”

The rabbis also accused the LGBT rights groups of “aggressive terror accompanied by nonstop media brainwashing…[that] destroy the notion of a family and turn the perverts into heroes.”

In response, almost 600 US and Canadian rabbis from across the spectrum of Judaism signed a letter calling on the Orthodox rabbis to retract a their letter.

That document was organized by A Wider Bridge, a San Francisco-based organization that focuses on ties between US and Israeli LGBTQ communities.

“The enshrining of discrimination into law, and harmful words spoken by religious leaders, sow the seeds of hatred and brutality in the land, and put vulnerable members of Israeli society at risk of violence and worse,” the letter said.

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