Jerusalem’s Sephardic chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, has been criticized for saying that the recent earthquake aftershocks in Israel were caused by the country’s decision to give the LGBTQIA+ community rights and freedoms.
Rabbi blames Israel earthquakes on LGBTQ+ community: ‘God said you are shocking your people’ https://t.co/rPqkl8iSjy
— PinkNews (@PinkNews) March 6, 2023
He made the shocking claims during a weekly sermon and even used a passage from the Talmud, the primary source of Jewish theology and religious law, to justify his comments.
"It's not me interpreting; it's the language of the Gemara,” Amar said, quoting from the Jewish religious text as stated by the Jerusalem Post. "God said you are shocking your people for something that is not yours,"
After the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria that killed tens of thousands and displaced millions, Israel experienced several aftershocks, reportedly felt as far as Cyprus and Egypt.
Israeli journalist and news anchor Ori Koel, who is himself a gay man, used a portion of his broadcast to respond to Amar’s bizarre comments.
"As a gay man, Rabbi Amar, and as someone who was sent on behalf of this channel to Turkey to cover the earthquakes, it's good to know that, in your opinion, my community members and I are responsible for this disaster," Koel said. "Perhaps at the same time, you can blame us (the LGBTQ+ community) for the cost of living and inflation?”
"You (should) be ashamed of your dark views," Koel continued. "In a democratic, western, and progressive country, a person like you should not receive a salary from the taxpayers' money.”
Although the rabbi was slammed for these remarks, this wouldn’t be the first time Amar made outlandish homophobic statements. In 2016, he described homosexuals as “a cult of abomination” and argued that they should be sentenced to death as per Jewish law.
Office of Jerusalem's Chief Rabbi, who calls LGBT a "cult of abomination", gets an upgrade. Thanks @MeretzJerusalempic.twitter.com/EzUJ7S8dRT
— Jessica (@JessicaMontell) November 20, 2016
The religious leaders also said that homosexuals could not be religious Jews, describing homosexuality as “a wild lust that needs to be overcome” and even declaring that “animals and wild beasts don’t behave like that” regarding the Jerusalem Pride march, despite evidence that homosexuality is also observed among other species in the animal kingdom.
Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Amar’s hateful comments about the #LGBTQ community are antithetical to Jewish values of tolerance & acceptance. Religious leaders should respect all people & positively engage with the entire community. We call on Amar to apologize. https://t.co/DjB228zTsY
— ADL (@ADL) July 23, 2019
Amar is not the first Jewish religious leader to attack the LGBTQIA+ community in Israel. Earlier this year, rabbi Meir Mazuz made ludicrous claims that the Knesset’s newly-appointed speaker, Amir Ohana, was “infected with disease” because of his sexuality. He also argued that homosexuality and gay pride marches were responsible for spreading COVID-19 across Israel.
Anti-LGBTQIA+ sentiment has been rising recently in Israel, with the country electing its most right-wing and religious government in history. Last January, Israel’s finance minister and deputy speaker admitted he was a “fascist homophobe” but said he wouldn’t stone gay people.