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High Court: State must explain why it hasn’t disciplined Jerusalem chief rabbi

The High Court of Justice issued a temporary injunction Tuesday asking the government to explain why Sephardi Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has not faced disciplinary sanctions despite years of inciting remarks.

The injunction came following a petition from the Reform Movement, Women of the Wall and the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, citing years of hate speech.

The groups said they had petitioned the government 16 times in the last four years, but no action had been taken. The position of city chief rabbi is a government-appointed position and he faces the same restrictions as other civil servants.

The court gave the state 21 days to respond to the injunction.

Earlier this year, Amar said it was “unbearable” that an openly gay man, the ruling Likud party lawmaker Amir Ohana, was made Knesset speaker, calling the move an abomination.

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In 2021, Amar compared the LGBTQ community to animals and mocked religious participants who take part in Pride parades.

An Israeli Border Police guard stands guard as people draped in rainbow flags march during the 21st annual Jerusalem Pride Parade in Jerusalem on June 1, 2023. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

“They did the abomination parade, which they are supposedly proud of,” Amar said. “Wild animals don’t behave this way.”

He has also called Reform Judaism more of a threat to the religion than secular Jews, and in 2017 said they were “worse than Holocaust deniers.”

The petitioners’ attorney Uri Narov, director of the legal department at the Reform Center for Religion and State, said in a statement that the court has long been aware of Amar’s “inciting, humiliating and offensive statements, which repeatedly attack reformists, the LGBTQ community and Women of the Wall.”

He added that the injunction sends a “clear message to Religious Services Minister [Michael Michaeli] — whose area of authority is the disciplinary prosecution of municipal rabbis — that his ignoring of this serious conduct and refusal to take disciplinary measures against Rabbi Amar is unacceptable.”