In accordance with a sort of expected pattern, Shas ministers played their regular role in the discussion over the welfare minister’s intention to allow same-sex couples to adopt a child in Israel. Again we heard slogans regarding the sanctity of the Jewish family and the terrible danger to the State of Israel’s Jewish
identity, should the minister’s intention materialize.
For a moment it seemed as if Shas ministers really do not know that at this time already we have thousands of children in Israel living in same-sex families. In this case, just like the case with many other affairs related to the character of Israeli families, the law trails far behind a reality that does not cease to renew and develop.
In fact, those who seek to make room for Jewish tradition in our life should favorably view any move aimed at boosting Israeli family life premised on mutual respect, partnership, and responsibility, at a time when Western and liberal societies are coping with an increased number of divorces, a decline in birthrates, and the weakening of the family unit. We should encourage any wish for a solid partnership and responsible parenting, regardless of whether it is heterosexual or homosexual. We are lucky to see growing circles within Israeli society naturally and simply accepting these family units.
Removing the obstacles faced by same-sex couples who wish to adopt an Israeli child constitutes a clear and unequivocal expression of the State’s recognition that the child’s good would not be undermined because he or she have same-sex parents, and that this good hinges on, first and foremost, the quality of family life and the relationships within it. This recognition by the State is another layer en route to pushing back bias, which is the only thing that could affect the good of a child of same-sex parents.
And what about the Jewish tradition? Well, there is no doubt that Judaism rejects homosexuality. Yet there is no doubt that the Torah and Jewish tradition did not at all recognize there could be a possibility of full family life of same-sex couples.
The decision on whether to apply the ancient Torah ban to modern realities is not something that should be taken for granted. It is doubtful whether there is another area where Jewish tradition saw so many changes and developments as is the case with family life. Past patterns that were legitimate in biblical times (i.e. polygamy, concubines etc.) were rejected by later generations. On the other hand, conduct that was considered impossible in the Torah and as complete betrayal of familial and sexual customs is today a common norm that Shas ministers and other national conservatives do not even dream of objecting to.
As we know, the Torah ban on desecrating the Shabbat is as severe as the ban on homosexuality. Can someone imagine Shas ministers demanding that secular heterosexual couples who desecrate the Shabbat be deprived of the right to adopt a baby in the State of Israel? Well, why is the case of same-sex couples any different? Is it because of their small numbers compared to the secular community, or maybe because sexual behavior at this time constitutes the greatest threat to religion conservatism, which protects itself with thick layers of homophobia?
One way or another, Shas ministers and their supporters need not worry. They will not be asked to celebrate the bar or bat mitzvahs of these happy children in their synagogues. It is good to see that in Israel, just like in other Jewish communities worldwide, the number of religious communities that would be glad to embrace these children and their parents keeps on growing.
Attorney Gilad Kariv is a reform rabbi and heads the Israel Religious Action Center