Religious gays in Israel

Yes, they exist. And they’re becoming better organized too. Check out this picture from a gay-friendly Shabbat service over Chanukah. 

I had a chance to talk with several my last few days in Tel Aviv, and what I found boils down to this:

With non-Orthodox religious options still a rarity in Israel, young gays and lesbians like Grunberg who grow up in traditional, highly insular surroundings typically have found that they must choose between their Orthodoxy and their sexual orientation.

But that is starting to change with a number of recent initiatives that are creating a community for religious gays while gradually opening up a space in the Orthodox community to address what remains a highly polarizing issue.

Israel’s paucity of alternatives to Orthodoxy, a fact liberal Jews frequently decry, is prompting religious gays to push for greater openness within the Orthodox world rather than decamp for more liberal options, as they often do in the Diaspora.

As a result, the issue of homosexuality is arguably one of the few areas in which Israeli Orthodox leaders are ahead of their counterparts in the United States, where a recent public meeting at Yeshiva University on homosexuality was pegged as a watershed event.

While no member of the Israeli Orthodox rabbinate has given religious sanction to a gay lifestyle, several leading figures have met with religious gays and offered words of encouragement and support.

"We are a fact here," said Ilan (not his real name), who recently returned to Israel after several years abroad and marvels at the sea change in attitudes. "We’re found. We don’t have to take off our kipah before we go into a bar. It’s OK to be gay and Orthodox here." 

Read the full story here. 

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