Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu
Rabbi Shmuel EliyahuIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Chief Rabbi of Tzfat and member of the Chief Rabbinate Council, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, defended on Monday controversial comments made by Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, head of the pre-army academy in Eli, after he claimed labelled homosexuals “deviants”.

Speaking to Army Radio, Rabbi Eliyahu emphasized that while he disagreed with the use of the term “deviants”, he defended Rabbi Levinstein’s right to do so.

“I don’t call gays ‘deviants’,” said Rabbi Eliyahu, “but its Rabbi Levinstein’s right to call them as he believes he should.”

Rabbi Eliyahu added that homosexuals should be shown love, not hatred.

“We embrace them with a great love.”

Distinguishing between the sexual act and people identifying as homosexuals, Rabbi Eliyahu noted the Torah’s condemnation of homosexuality as “an abomination”, but said that was not a reason to spew hatred homosexuals themselves.

“The Torah calls it an ‘abomination’, and I don’t intend to apologize for what’s written in the Torah. If God decided that, then he knows better than anyone else.”

“You can say a certain phenomenon is not healthy. Gaining weight isn’t good, smoking isn’t good, adulterousness isn’t good. But if a person fails in this, you don’t tell him to go to hell. You embrace him, you help him to right himself.”

Nevertheless, he praised Rabbi Levinstein’s forthrightness and rejected attacks on his character.

“How did Yair Golan put it? A person must go against the flow. What Rabbi Levinstein said is at the heart of the national-religious stream [of Judaism]. I was there when he said it. It was a packed hall, with about 1,000 rabbis, and everyone supported him.”