08/19/2011 12:55 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Orthodox Rabbi Who Marries Gay Men to Lesbians

In the U.S., the debate about same-sex marriages has created a dividing line in the so-called culture wars, but in Jerusalem, where Orthodox Jews do not accept homosexuality, it feels like America, circa 1952.

Gay people cannot walk the streets hand in hand. Lesbians are forced to marry men. Many gay men marry straight women, hoping to keep their sexual orientation a secret. These relationships often unravel after years of sexual repression, when people realize they can no longer live a lie.

This spring, I received a fellowship from the International Center For Journalists to report on the struggles of gay Orthodox men. I was specifically interested in how homosexual men deal with these issues because Orthodoxy is centered on a patriarchal model.

That's how I came across Areleh Harel, an Orthodox Zionist rabbi who lives in an Israeli settlement town on the West Bank.

Harel is known as the gay matchmaker. But he doesn't match same-sex partners. Instead, he finds gay men and lesbian women who want to marry each other so they can have a semblance of a marriage and live within the guidelines set by the Torah and Jewish law.

It's an unusual experiment that has resulted in 12 marriages. So far, two of the couples have divorced, but Harel said the rest of the couples are happy because they hide their sexual orientation and live the way G-d intended: As a man and wife with children.

You can read all about it in my story which ran in Time.

Here is the corresponding video: