(photo credit: PR)
The Knesset could get its first openly lesbian MK if Yesh Atid maintains its current 19 seats in the March 17 election, after the party placed Zehorit Sorek 19th on the list it will submit Wednesday to the Central Elections Committee.
Newark-born Marcia Freedman served in the 8th Knesset from 1974 to 1977 for Ratz, the forerunner of Meretz, and other parties, but she did not disclose that she was a lesbian until after her term.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid on Tuesday announced his choice of Sorek for the party’s 19th slot, the first on the list after all of his party’s current MKs. Lapid made the decision to show support for the gay community in Israel.
“The party is making an important statement by putting someone gay in a realistic slot,” Sorek said in a phone interview. “It unfortunately does not look like there will be another outof- the-closet gay MK. I consider my 19th slot completely realistic.”
She said she respects the decision of a current MK to keep his sexual identity private, but said “a public figure needs to know he is not a private citizen, and it shows he’s a bit ashamed.”
Sorek, 39, has two children, aged 16 and 12. She married her partner, Limor, in a civil ceremony in Israel that has not been recognized by the state.
Her identity card still says she is divorced, because she was once married to a man. She decided she would not get married in another country, because she would only want to tie the knot here.
“I won’t get married until I have the right to do it here,” Sorek said.
“I live in Israel, and I should not be served by another country. This is my country and I want to be served by my country. I am fighting for our country, just like our slogan says.”
Sorek has been involved in several gay rights organizations, including the lesbian Orthodox group Bat Kol, in which she was events coordinator.
In 2012, she was given the “distinguished member of the community” award by a group of gay organizations.
She was raised in Jerusalem in an Orthodox family of Moroccan origin and studied at the top religious Zionist schools. She now attends a liberal Orthodox Tel Aviv synagogue, Yahad, where she often reads the haftara portion from the Book of the Prophets. She had left her previous synagogue when the rabbi did not let her sponsor a kiddush after services in honor of her civil ceremony.
“I remain Orthodox because I think it’s wrong to leave,” she said. “I prefer to stay and struggle for my place. It’s my truth, it’s what I believe in. But I don’t need a kosher certificate from rabbis.”
Sorek said she has good relations with the rabbis in Yesh Atid, Shai Piron and Dov Lipman. Yesh Atid candidate and Hatnua MK Elazar Stern, who is also Orthodox, said he considers Sorek part of his new Yesh Atid family.
“My mother, who is a Holocaust survivor, taught me that everyone was born equal,” Stern said. “I’ve worked with gays and lesbians. They are human beings.”