Yaakov Ariel, the rabbi of Ramat Gan was severely criticized for his May 15 advice in response to an online question, reports timesofisrael.com.
Ariel is a senior figure in the religious Zionist world and as a city rabbi receives a state salary. He was also a former candidate for chief rabbi of Israel.
He has since his advice been summoned by Ramat Gan Mayor Israel Singer to explain his remarks. Ramat Gan is a city in the Tel Aviv District of Israel.
“The statements of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel prohibiting renting apartments to lesbians are not only morally and socially wrong, they should also be forbidden on a legal level,” timesofisrael.com quoted Justice Minister Tzipi Livni as saying.
Livni said she was examining the possibility of classifying a refusal to rent or sell apartments to a certain group of individuals as a discriminatory criminal act punishable by either a fine or jail time.
“In Israel we won’t permit discrimination against members of the gay community or Arabs or other minorities, in housing or any other field,” Livni said in a statement posted on Facebook.
Ariel had responded on the website Yeshiva.org.il (Hebrew) to a user asking if it was religiously permissible to rent out his apartment to a woman who was involved romantically with another woman.
The rabbi responded that the landlord should not rent out the apartment if they are “renting as a couple.” It was all right if only one of them wanted to rent the apartment but that the landlord should not even do this if there was another offer.
“LGBT women have equal rights in all spheres of life” in both the religious and secular worlds, Ayelet Vider-Cohen, director of Kolech, an Orthodox feminist organization, was reported to have said.
Israeli law has strict stipulations on prohibiting discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It mandates that the State has an obligation to not allow discrimination between citizens on the basis of religion, gender, race, sexual orientation or gender identity or any other characteristic.