Religious-Zionist rabbis back decision to block gay adoption
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Religious-Zionist rabbis back decision to block gay adoption

In letter to justice minister, religious leaders object to policies that ‘run contrary to human morality’

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked attends a Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee meeting on July 9, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked attends a Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee meeting on July 9, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Dozens of religious-Zionist rabbis declared their support for Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s ruling against the adoption of children by gay couples, saying that allowing it would go against human morality and the values of Judaism.

In a letter Tuesday to Shaked, who is a member of the Jewish Home party, the rabbis urged her to maintain her position against adoption by same-sex couples amid strong pressure to change her stance.

Last week, the government notified the High Court of Justice that it would not lift discriminatory practices against same-sex couples, as such parents saddle their children with “additional baggage.” Same-sex couples are legally allowed to adopt, but they typically must wait longer and can only receive children if no heterosexual couple is available.

The government response, submitted on behalf of the welfare and justice ministries, was in response to a petition by the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers, which called for equal treatment in the adoption process. Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz subsequently declared that the state’s response was unfortunately worded and asked the court for an extension to reexamine the issue, saying he wanted to seek more professional opinions, after which the court granted him another two months.

The carefully worded missive from the rabbis did not mention homosexuals or adoption but spoke of family values and the need to preserve them.

“These days voices are being raised seeking to change the custom of the state, in a way that is contrary to the human morality that emanates from our holy Torah,” the rabbis wrote, referring to the central text and derived teachings of Judaism. “We fully back Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked for preserving Israel’s values and for her steadfast position to preserve the traditions and values of the family unit as is fitting for a representative of the religious-Zionist party in the Israeli Knesset.

“Our holy Torah is a beacon and moral compass to the Jewish people and the whole world. Therefore, it is fitting that in Israel we be on guard to strengthen family values and preserve a public space that respects the values ​​of human morality and Judaism,” they said. “We support all the public representatives who act in this way.”

Hundreds protest in support of the right of same-sex couples to adopt children in Tel Aviv, July 20, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Hundreds protest in support of the right of same-sex couples to adopt children in Tel Aviv, July 20, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The letter was signed by dozens of rabbis, among whom were former MK Rabbi Haim Druckman, who is head of Bnei Akiva yeshivas, Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Israeli Prize-winning Rabbi Eli Sadan and community rabbis, heads of yeshivas, and educators.

In an interview with Israel Radio on Wednesday morning, Eliyahu said that homosexuality is unhealthy because it deviates from nature and God’s will.

“This is not a healthy phenomenon, and there are diseases in the world that need to be healed rather than given legitimization,” he said. “I am sure there are homosexuals and lesbians who are good people, but you can’t do something artificial that goes against the way that God created the world.”

Eliyahu indicated that in his opinion, the Israeli public was largely against gay couples adopting children.

“The fuss is a media fuss and not a public fuss,” he continued. “The healthy public understands that a healthy family is a father and mother. That is how the world has been operating in the last thousands of years and that is how it is in nature. And when there is a deviation… it has to be dealt with.

“I want what is best for the child, that he have a healthy father and a healthy mother. A child adopted by two men robs him of a mother’s love, of the softness, the warmth, of a mother’s affection and hug, and that is unjust and unfair. As much as they want to live their lives, it is not right to rob a child of a mother’s love. Two women or two men can’t give what a couple can give.”

Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu in Jerusalem, May 24, 2017. (Shlomi Cohen/Flash90)
Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu in Jerusalem, May 24, 2017. (Shlomi Cohen/Flash90)

Some 200 Jewish leaders and institutions from North America urged the government on Tuesday to end discrimination against same-sex couples.

The call came in a letter to the government coordinated by A Wider Bridge, a San Francisco-based organization that focuses on ties between US and Israeli LGBTQ communities. Signatories included Hillel International, leaders of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Union of Reform Judaism, prominent Jewish LGBT leaders and over 60 US rabbis.

Same-sex couples can be approved for adoption under Israeli law, but in practice only three such couples have adopted children in the past nine years. Many same-sex couples adopt babies from other countries.

Since 2008, when single-sex couples and couples who have common-law marriages became legally able to adopt within Israel, 550 such couples have submitted petitions to adopt, Haaretz reported. While only three same-sex couples were successful, more than 1,000 straight couples have adopted in the same period.

Times of Israel staff and JTA contributed to this report.

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