Protesters hung a gay pride rainbow flag overnight Saturday on the offices of the Jerusalem Chief Rabbinate to protest offensive comments made by the capital’s top Sephardic rabbi about the homosexual community.
The six-banded color flag was strung up at the entrance to the office of Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who drew anger after last week calling homosexuality an “abomination” in an interview with an Israeli daily. The same rainbow colors were drawn, apparently in chalk, across the entrance way to the steps of the building on Hahavatzelet Street.
Police were called to investigate the adornments at the building and said they would question members of the left-wing Meretz party’s Hebrew University branch, Hebrew media reported.
In a tweet, the Meretz party said members of its Hebrew University branch had “decorated” the entrance of Amar’s office.
תא מרצ באוניברסיטה העברית הגיע אתמול בלילה לרבנות הראשית כדי לקשט לרב עאמר את הכניסה למשרדו. pic.twitter.com/kKvG9aG44D
— MeretzJerusalem (@MeretzJerusalem) November 20, 2016
A protest against Amar organized by the local Yerushalmim Party was scheduled to be held later Sunday outside the Rabbinate offices.
Jerusalem city councilman Aryeh King planned to hold a counter-demonstration in support of the rabbi.
Amar, who previously served as the country’s Sephardi chief rabbi, made his controversial statements in an interview with the Israel Hayom newspaper published in full on Friday, drawing condemnation and earning himself a police complaint for incitement.
“I call it a cult. It’s a cult of abominations, it is obvious. It’s an abomination,” Amar said. “The Torah says it is punishable by death. It is in the first rank of severe offenses… They say ‘leaning,’ ‘perversion’ – this is nonsense. There is lust, and a person can overcome it if they want to, like all lusts. This is among the most forbidden lusts, the most severe. ”
Amar said he declined to attend a memorial service for teenager Shira Banki, who was stabbed to death by an ultra-Orthodox zealot during 2015’s Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem, after her family refused to read aloud a condemnation of homosexuality he included in a condolence missive he sent to them. Amar recalled he told the parents of murdered Shira Banki that “if you want to exalt her soul to the heavens, to repent from your evil ways.”
Amar’s comments were met with fury by members of the LGBTQ community and champions of civil liberties in Israel.
Oded Fried, a gay rights activist and former head of the Israeli LGBT Taskforce, filed a complaint with Israel Police last week, saying Amar’s comments constituted incitement to bigotry.
Gilad Bar-on, the head of Hebrew University’s Meretz branch, called for Amar to retract his statements.
“The blood-soaked statements of Rabbi Amar are unacceptable to us,” Bar-on told Channel 2. “As the people who are paying his wages we demand that Rabbi Amar take it back.”
“The LGBT community is not ‘a cult of abomination’ and the parents of Shiri Banki don’t need any rectification,” Bar-On added.