A gay, Orthodox Jewish man, Rabbi Arele Harel, has stunned religious communities by creating a dating service that sets up gay, Orthodox Jewish men with gay, Orthodox Jewish women.
The extraordinary unions seek to sidestep common ethical values and are being set up to simply help gay and lesbian individuals have children, Rabbi Harel says. He says that is what matters.
"The main aspiration here is parenthood," Harel, 36, told the The Associated Press from his home in the West Bank. "It allows them to become parents in a way that is permitted by religious Jewish law and prevents a conflict between their religious world and their sexual world."
"This is the best solution we can offer people who want to live within the halacha [Jewish law]," Harel told Time magazine. "This may not be a perfect solution, but it's kind of a solution."
Harel believes some gays can become straight, but not all. And for those who cannot, he offers them a way to live according to the rules of their religion while having a family. However, critics say that this does nothing but force gay people to live in an unhappy, loveless marriage that could possibly harm children.
“I don’t think it’s healthy or any kind of good to the kids or parents as well,” said Daniel Jonas, spokesman for Havruta, a gay Orthodox group. “If the parents don’t love each other, if they don’t really live together, the kids will know it. No matter if you’re gay or not.”
Rabbi Harel has an open mind regarding the possibility of adverse effects of living in a home created by his project.
“You don’t until you try,” Harel said. “All our life is full of tryings.”
A gay man who was set up with a lesbian woman told Time that he cheated on his wife with men three times during their two-and-a-half year marriage. But Harel said infidelity can happen in any marriage – gay or straight – and is not necessarily a result of the sexual orientation mismatch.
“If he wants to go with another man, if she wants to go with another woman, then they want to do it. I don’t accept it from the point of view of the halacha, but it’s not my business,” Harel said.
Harel plans on putting his dating service online this month. People who wish to join it will pay a symbolic payment of about $42 to subscribe. If a bride and groom are matched, they will pay $430.