A Chief Rabbi has said people who want a gender-neutral space to pray in are worse than Holocaust deniers.
Shlomo Amar, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem’s Sephardi community – those who descend from Spanish or Portuguese Jews – made the comments in a weekly sermon.
He is opposed to plans to create a mixed-gender space in front of the Western Wall, a Jewish holy site which is currently segregated along gender lines – with a much smaller section for women.
Speaking about liberal groups’ attempts to get the government to follow through on its promise to implement a gender-neutral space, the Chief Rabbi said they were misleading people.
“They’re trying to throw dust in the eyes [of the public] and say that the Orthodox extremist Jews invented [the separation of sexes].”
Amar, who used to be the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of the whole country, added: “It’s like Holocaust deniers, it’s the same thing.
“They shout about Holocaust deniers in Iran, [but] they deny more than Holocaust deniers.”
The rabbi said that recent petitions filed by five organisations to allow mixed-gender prayer at the Western Wall came from “wicked” people.
These people committed “every injustice in the world against the Torah,” he added.
“They even marry Jews to non-Jews, they have neither Yom Kippur nor Shabbat, but they want prayer…and nobody should believe that they want to pray – they want to desecrate what’s holy.”
Amar also attacked the Supreme Court for its focus on equality, saying it had “destroyed” many countries.
“This is in the first line of serious sins.”
Right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came out against Amar’s comments, saying: “All Jews are part of one family and the diversity of our people should always be respected.
“I categorically reject any attempt to delegitimise any part of the Jewish people,” he added, according to The Times of Israel.
His remarks come just months after the murder of 16-year-old Shira Banki at Jerusalem’s Pride parade.