Israel: A hotel’s outdoor wedding site near Jerusalem at the world’s only kibbutz for Messianic Jews remains shuttered after it lost an appeal against a ruling calling for it to host gay wedding parties.
Gay couples in Israel forced the wedding hall at Moshav Yad Hashmona to close by flooding it with marriage ceremony requests they knew it would refuse to fulfill, thus subjecting it to legal contempt if it did so, hotel personnel said, according to morningstarnews.org.
Ayelet Ronen, general secretary of Yad Hashmona, said the requests came from people trying to “punish” the kibbutz for refusing to host the ceremonies or from those seeking a quick payoff in damages if the kibbutz refused.
The kibbutz lost the appeal in June for refuses to host gay wedding ceremonies because doing so would violate its religious principles and religious freedom.
Three days after the initial 2012 ruling in the lawsuit filed in 2009, the large number of phone calls and e-mails from the gay community led members of Yad Hashmona to close the reception hall altogether.
Leaving it open would have exposed the kibbutz to potential lawsuits and legal costs members of the kibbutz would be unable to pay, Ronen told morningstarnews.org.
Calls with requests for same-sex union celebrations have since decreased, but they continue, he added.
Moshe Yoad Cohen, a judge for the Jerusalem District Court, in June upheld a lower court decision that the Moshav Yad Hashmona had discriminated against the couple.
Cohen also upheld the penalty imposed by the lower court in 2012, a fine of 60,000 shekels (US$17,400) awarded to the couple and 30,000 shekels (US$8,700) in legal fees for their attorney.
The court rulings were based on a 2000 law in Israel banning business or services from discriminating based on sex, religion, color, race or sexual orientation.
The judge’s ruling against the appeal now means the kibbutz will have to keep the hall closed, unless a higher court accepts another appeal and the kibbutz wins or it can come up with a different business model for the reception hall.
Revenue from the kibbutz’ hotel and events business “kept the village going,” Ronen said.
Hotel General Manager Tsuriel Bar-David added: “We had to stop all activities related to weddings in our hotel so we won’t be accused of discriminating against anyone.”
Messianic Jewish believers in Israel are a small sect and not accepted as part of the mainstream Jewish religious canon.
Founded in the 1960s, it blends evangelical Christian theology with Jewish practice. The sect says it is run on “biblical principles,” forbids alcohol consumption and club-type dancing and purports to promote “God’s will” which it says includes opposition to same-sex relations.