A lawmaker from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party resigned on Wednesday after coming under fire from rabbis, who criticized him for attending his nephew’s gay wedding.
Yigal Guetta informed Shas leader and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri he would give up his Knesset seat. Deri thanked Guetta and said there would be other roles in which he could serve in the party.
“Minister Deri told MK Guetta that he respects his decision, expressed his appreciation for him and thanked him for his valuable work and for the new and energetic spirit he introduced to Shas,” a letter from Deri’s office said.
His resignation came a day after rabbis published a letter railing at Guetta‘s “public desecration of Heaven” and demanded that the leaders of Shas “remove and fire” him “immediately.”
The letter followed an Army Radio interview on Monday in which Guetta took pride in how he had handled the delicate question of a family member’s gay marriage.
“Two years ago, my sister called me and said, ‘Yigal, I want to make you happy, my son is getting married in two months,'” Guetta said, recalling that his nephew then got on the line and asked him to conduct the ceremony.
Guetta did not yet understand the nature of the request. “I told him, ‘Listen, I don’t understand these things, but there are people who [officiate at weddings] as a profession, and I promise to find you someone who will do it in the best possible way.’
“Then he said to me, ‘Yes, but I want to tell you something else: I’m gay and I’m marrying a man.’
“I told him, ‘You know what? Now I understand this even less.'”
The news didn’t dissuade him, however. “The whole family went [to the wedding], my wife and I and the kids, who I don’t usually tell which events to go to. But for this, I said that showing up is mandatory. We all went so we could make him very happy.”
Still, he said that he made sure to stress to his children that homosexual relations are forbidden by the Torah, he said.
“I told my kids before we went, ‘You should know that we’re going in order to make him happy, because he’s my sister’s son, and she’s my sister and I want to embrace her. But the Torah says this [relationship] is forbidden and an abomination.” Then he added, apologetically, “‘What can you do? My own judgment is irrelevant here.'”
The rabbis who drafted the letter against Guetta — Ben Zion Mutzafi, Moshe Tzedaka, Aharon Yirhi, Moshe Ohanona and Avner Marciano — were scathing in their criticism.
“So-and-so,” they wrote mockingly, “told his entire family that they were required to attend the ‘wedding’ of his nephew, which is a terrible prohibition, among the most severe in the Torah.”
The rabbis urged the public to “call and cry out to all the leaders [of Shas] to not endorse this terrible desecration of God’s blessed name and to remove and fire [Guetta] immediately from his public position to a position that has no public role, and to advertise the fact of his firing.”
Sources close to Guetta told Channel 2 that the rabbis were given an incomplete recording of his words by someone who meant to hurt him, and that he was in any case subject to Shas’s Council of Torah Sages and would do whatever they instructed.
A serving MK cannot legally be removed by his party, but can lose his place on the party’s Knesset list in future elections.
Centrist and left-wing lawmakers were quick to condemn Shas over Guetta’s resignation.
Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid took to Twitter to denounce Guetta’s treatment by his own party.
“Guetta is an excellent MK and a friend,” he posted Wednesday morning. “It’s sad that in Israel in 2017, a Knesset member is forced to resign because he attended a wedding of two people who love each other.”
Yael German, a former minister from Lapid’s party, called the incident “regrettable and shameful.”
“Again we see that Knesset members do not make decisions based to their consciences, but rather based on political pressure,” she said in a statement.
The chairwoman of the Meretz party also criticized the ultra-Orthodox party and called for the reinstatement of the ousted lawmaker.
“MK Guetta made a simple human gesture and went to support his nephew at his wedding,” Zehava Galon posted on Twitter. “The pressure to dismiss him is a disgrace to Shas, and I hope they come to their senses and give him his job back.”