Photo Credit: Hagai Frid Courtesy IDC
Naftali Bennett at the 17th annual Herzliya Conference, held at the IDC

About a month after he resigned from his membership in the presidency of Habayit Hayehudi over his objection to Chairman Naftali Bennett’s position on the Conversion Law, Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, head of Zomet Institute, on Thursday announced his retirement from the party altogether, over the fact that Bennett employs a lesbian woman as media consultant in his office.

About a month ago, Bennett’s consultant Brit Peretz was outed by her spouse, Adi Galor, on Facebook in a post referring to the state’s position on banning same-sex couples from adopting children. “We have two children, one that was born to us just a month ago,” the partner wrote, “two children we chose to bring to the world happy and good, two children with and for whom we chose to build a family.”

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Yidioth Aharonoth ran the story in July, and Peretz, sounding a bit miffed by her unwanted public exposure, said something along the line that she would probably pay a career price for it, but she’s willing to accept this if it means the state would rethink its position on gay adoptions. Bennett, for his part, congratulated his consultant and declared he had no intention of discriminating against her or anyone else in his employ.

On Thursday, Rabbi Rosen, whose institute is a high-tech non-profit specializing in providing solutions to make IT and electronic appliances meet halakhic requirements, especially for use on Shabbat, sent Bennett a letter explaining that his decision to retire from the party (for the second or third time) stems from the fact that an LGBT spokesperson cannot represent a religious party—referring to Bennett’s media consultant.

“I expressed a critical position on Habayit Hayehudi turning its back on issues of religion and state, ceding this arena exclusively to the ultra-Orthodox,” Rosen wrote, adding: “It is no wonder that you’ve kept on a gay person as spokesperson.”

“I have nothing against her or against them,” Rosen noted, “but I think that this community is disqualified as defiant and its manifest pride is inconceivable in a party that pretends to represent Religious Zionism.”

A source within Habayit Hayehudi who asked to remain anonymous told the Jewish Press online that Rabbi Rosen’s sudden exodus had nothing to do with lesbianism or halakha for that matter. Apparently there is a conference planned for Habayit Hayehudi in September, where Rosen wanted to lead the forum on technology and halakha – but was refused because of his jittery track record of slamming doors behind his back every few months (his first resignation came in response to Bennett’s attempt to enlist for the party’s Knesset list a non-Ashkenazi, secular soccer player). Rosen, who discovered that party loyalty ranks higher than expertise (he really is extremely informed on technology and halakha), slammed the door once again, catching a once-outed lesbian in his track in a fit of fury.

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, dean of the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in Jerusalem and a leader of the more religiously-stringent segment of the Religious-Zionist community, was only too happy to attack Bennett’s choices. Aviner told Walla:” There is a public statement here that legitimizes something forbidden. There is a very big difference between love and legitimacy. If, say, my son steals, I still love him but I do not give him legitimacy. Here we have a government minister from a religious party who legitimizes what the Torah forbids, so it is clear that Bennett is not right.”

Of course, there are miles of difference between halakha’s view on same-sex relations between men vs. women (spoiler: it goes much easier on women). Also, the Torah is easily as forbidding against desecrators of the Sabbath (death by stoning) as against homosexual men (death by stoning) and yet Rabbi Aviner is not on a crusade to fire all the secular employees of religious institutions. But who can skip an opportunity to kick the shins of the man who succeeded in turning the old National Religious Party into a serious player in Israel’s coalition politics.

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