Speaking of (Or Not Speaking of) Sex

I suppose at some time in peoples’ lives they think of sex or certainly speak of it. And of course, they also do it.

A reader referred to my earlier e-mail in which I negated the comments in a pamphlet written by an Orthodox rabbi in which he strongly condemned masturbation and pornography as grave sins. The reader asked my opinion about same-sex marriages among Israeli Jews living in Israel.

The first answer is the simplest: there is no civil marriage allowed in Israel and therefore the Rabbinate would never permit couples of the same sex to be married in Israel. People in Israel who seek a same-sex marriage are obligated to fly to the nearby island of Cyprus for a civil marriage ceremony.

I am not certain if the population registry recognizes the marriage.

For my part I could never consider masturbation or watching or reading pornography as a sin. It is a very natural way to bring some relief from tension and stress. It is a private act and does not interfere with convictions of other people.

I, however, do not yet accept the idea of a same-sex marriage (at least not in Judaism where marriage is called “kiddushin” meaning an act of holiness). But I do not have objections to same-sex couples sharing a life together as loving companions, living and sleeping together without the benefit of a formal marriage ceremony.

Psychiatric statistics state that 10 percent of any population is homosexual. If that number is correct, then we have some 850,000 homosexuals in our small country. It is said that approximately 30% of homosexuals are married. Therefore, it would be more appropriate to call them bi-sexual rather than homosexual.

I am not aware of the activities of the LGBT groups in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, the two largest centers in Israel. I do know that they are accepted and equal to all rights of ordinary citizens. The annual gay pride parade in Tel Aviv brings tens of thousands of people either to participate in the march or to stand on the side lines as spectators. There is no hostility to them.

Not so in Jerusalem. I do not approve of the annual gay pride parade in Jerusalem, which draws smaller numbers than the one in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is a secular city where “anything and everything goes.” But Jerusalem is mainly a religious center for Jews and for Muslims and Christians. A parade through the city’s streets are deemed highly offensive and often is met with physical hostility.

Gay couples are denied marriage and child adoption in Israel. I know of one couple from a city in the north of Galilee who traveled to the United States for a same-sex civil marriage and who are remaining in California until an adoption of a baby can be finalized.

The European countries are more enlightened. Same-sex marriages are permitted in most countries and are recognized as legal unions. I doubt that such will ever be the case in Israel.

On the other hand, the alleged “sin” of pornography is clearly visible in many parts of many cities and towns in Israel. Sex Shops are not hidden and often are found on the main streets of the city. And believe it or not, they are often frequented by Orthodox Jewish men and younger men who are seen removing their head covering before entering.

The hypocrisy of Orthodoxy closes its eyes to sexual offenses and crimes committed by Orthodox rabbis and teachers in the yeshivot. They think of sex, do not speak of it, but too frequently do it to under-age children in their care.

While there are many same-sex couples in Israel, married outside of Israel’s borders, I know of only two well-known doctors in Tel-Aviv who keep a separate apartment for themselves when they are not at home with their wives and families.

I do not judge. I do not condemn. I try to understand and to respect. That, in my non-Orthodox opinion, is what the Israeli rabbinate needs to do.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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