The more liberal and progressive elements in Israeli society are fuming after a group of 200 leading rabbis published a letter labeling homosexuals as "perverts."
As a nation, Israel prides itself on tolerance toward and acceptance of homosexuals. There are openly-gay members of Knesset; the IDF touts its integration of the LGBT community; Tel Aviv is advertised by the Israel Ministry of Tourism as a top gay travel destination; and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently highlighted Israel's homosexual credentials at the American Jewish Committee conference.
But Netanyahu and his Likud Party also helped defeat a motion to include homosexuals in a new amendment to Israel's surrogacy laws. The amendment enables single would-be mothers to now make use of surrogacy on the state's dime. Homosexuals hoped to be included in the new regulations, and took to the streets of Tel Aviv in mass protest when the Knesset rejected their appeals.
In response to the liberal outcry, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Aryeh Stern insisted that children born to gay couples would "enter a very strange and unnatural life," and that the government of Israel shouldn't be party to such a "wretched" state of affairs.
Rabbi Stern faced a severe backlash, which prompted the 200 prominent fellow rabbis to come to his defense in a letter reading:
"[Rabbi Stern] spoke simply about the eternal truth of our holy Torah and human normalcy, which the healthy majority of the State of Israel identifies with, and which is outraged by the provocations of the organizations of abomination, who carry out impudent marches in the cities of Israel and even arrange marches of abomination on the Fast of Av, a day of national mourning for the Temple which was destroyed in part due to illicit sexual relations and baseless hatred.
"The media's brainwashing that seeks to destroy the concept of family and turn perverts into heroes will not succeed, and nor will the attempt to silence rabbis and sane people and turn them into delusional extremists."
The letter was swiftly condemned by left-wing and centrist lawmakers in the Knesset, and a petition was started demanding that any of the 200 rabbis who draw a government salary should be fired immediately.