A few months ago, Yael Rashlin, an observant transgender Jewish woman, bared her head, breaking an important prohibition in Judaism for married women, in order to stand out from an Orthodox community who, she says, " don't want us".
In a relationship with a woman, this mother of five children, including three from a first union when she identified as a man, explains that she "can no longer pray to the same god as people who today are trying to destroy my community. [LGBT , NDLR] and destroy our lives".
The result of the last elections, which led to the entry into the Israeli Parliament of religious and far-right figures known for their anti-LGBT positions, was the straw that broke the camel's back.
But already before the election, says Yaël's wife, Hadar Rashlin, 30, "the price to pay had become too heavy to manage this conflict between forming an LGBT couple and belonging to the Orthodox community".
Yaël remembers the hostile reactions when they had their heads covered and walked down the street holding hands.
"Religious couples have the right to hold hands in the street but if you are a woman with your head covered you cannot shake hands with another woman. This provokes questions, looks, humiliating and inappropriate reflections “, she laments.
Israeli legislation is advanced in protecting LGBT rights, but in Orthodox Judaism, the vast majority in Israel, the rejection of any form of homosexuality has only begun to wane in the last decade. And transidentity remains a largely taboo subject.
The non-Orthodox currents of Judaism, liberal and Masorti (conservative), which advocate gender equality and show openness towards the LGBT community, remain very much in the minority.
- "Disarray" -
Today, Yael and Hadar, who married a few years ago in a ceremony not recognized by the Orthodox rabbinate, say they have changed nothing in the Orthodox rituals to which they are attached, but they no longer want to be affiliated with this current.
A few hours before the start of Shabbat, the Jewish weekly rest, they rush to put their small apartment on the outskirts of Jerusalem in order, arms laden with piles of clothes ready to be put away and toys scattered from their two young children.
“There is a fear of leading rabbinical authorities to say publicly that transgender people exist, that it is not a mental illness or a fad,” explains Yaël, 43, a computer engineer.
A rejection that pushes many transgender religious Jews to suicide, according to Yaël, who says she has lost a dozen friends in recent years.
According to a study by the Israeli Ministry of Health published at the end of 2020, 40% of transgender people surveyed had attempted suicide.
Those numbers are even higher among the religious population, according to Rotem Sorek, director of Maavarim, a self-help organization for transgender people.
"Their distress is even greater, they often have to face rejection not only from their loved ones but also from their community. They are therefore even more in danger", she explains, specifying that because of the omerta on the subject no precise figures are available.
This situation worries Benny Lau, an Orthodox rabbi defender of an orthodoxy open to the world, who has accompanied men and women, homosexuals and practitioners for several years.
In halacha, the set of Jewish religious laws, "the most important mitzvah [commandment] is to protect life. For me, helping someone come out of the closet is is a mitzvah, not a transgression,” he explains.
He recounts how he accepted the request of a transgender Orthodox woman to write him a letter certifying that she was a woman so that she could be accepted into the women's section of his synagogue, men and women being separated. in Orthodox synagogues.
The violence of some rabbis on the subject of transidentity is the product of the war of a part of the religious world against modernity and does not come from halacha "which is subject to interpretations and in which one can find many justifications" , he argues.
“In the Torah, only sexual relations between men are explicitly prohibited, but the most radical religious Jews believe that by extension, changing sex is against the Torah and against the will of God,” he says.
This liberal vision defended by Mr. Lau is at odds with the positions of certain newly elected observant Jews in the Israeli government.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and the leader of the Noam party, Avi Maoz, deputy and appointed to the Prime Minister's office, thus publicly assume very violent anti-LGBT positions.
"I don't think there will be anti-LGBT laws immediately, but more than laws, I'm worried about the day-to-day work of government," said Shani Armon, an Orthodox transgender woman.
This 29-year-old computer engineer says she particularly fears "a drop in budgets for LGBT help centers".
As for Yaël Rashlin, who has dual French and Israeli nationality, she says "not to rule out leaving Israel if the situation becomes really impossible".
01/03/2023 12:03:44 - Tsur Hadassah (Israël) (AFP) - © 2023 AFP