LGBT flag on Jerusalem's King George Street, July 31, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
"A father and a mother = a family. The courage to be normal." Thus read a large banner displayed on a hotel near the entrance to Jerusalem. The banner quickly sparked outrage from the Israeli LGBT community.
The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel (known as the Agudah) contacted the hotel quickly and the banner was removed.
This banner was part of a much larger campaign started by Hazon, a movement dedicated to "returning the Jewish character to the national agenda in Israel." The campaign is centered on using the time before the election to pressure politicians to agree to a religious Jewish agenda for the State.
The campaign is targeting a variety of topics, including work and public transport on Shabbat, the Women of the Wall movement, and the silencing of right-wing and religious movements. Hazon describes all of these things as "not normal" in almost all of its publications.
A large portion of Hazon's campaign has been aimed at the issue of same sex couples and families. The campaign consists of an aggressive social media, digital, and paper-media effort.
One of the newest ads on Hazon's Facebook page featured the leaders of many of the political parties running in the upcoming elections with the names of their parents, including left-wing Meretz leader, Tamar Zandberg's, ending with the statement "Maybe all of them don't have the courage to say it. That's why we're here. A father and a mother = a family."
This campaign isn't just ads and banners, though. A zealous SMS campaign has been swiftly spreading throughout the country in the past few days. The messages include surveys asking recipients "Are a father and a father a normal family?" and texts asking recipients to join the movement by signing a position in support of the "Jewish identity in the Jewish state."
In an interview with Srugim, Rabbi Dror Aryeh, one of the leaders in the movement, said that the Left "isn't democratic and uses the courts and schools to push its agenda. A minority is trying to blur the vision of the nation…There's a lot of confusion around the issues of gender and equality."
Rabbi Aryeh said that he believes that most of the public agrees with Hazon's position, and, if they would just state their views, "the members of Knesset would stand firm against [the Left's] attempts."
When asked by Srugim what he believes needs to be done, Rabbi Aryeh said "we have a very clear path. We are on the path of the soul: to the Temple, to health, to purity."
Rabbi Aryeh also said in the interview that after the sign was taken down, they received hundreds of phone calls. Some of them were threats but most were people who cared about the movement and were shocked that Hazon was being silenced.
One anonymous caller pledged to donate a sign to them for every 5,000 signatures they could gather on a petition. The Hazon movement did not have much money at the beginning, and is relying largely on word of mouth and donations.
Multiple rabbis, including Rabbi Yigael Levinstein, head of the prearmy mechina
in Yishuv Eli, have stated their support for the Hazon's campaign. The SMS campaign has gone viral and continues to be sent throughout yeshivas, schools, and mechinas.
Last Thursday, Hazon published an ad on the cover of the Haaretz newspaper. Amos Schocken, publisher of Haaretz, apologized on Twitter for publishing the ad, saying that he believes that Hazon has "a racist position that cannot be given a place." Schocken responded to later reports from Kipa stating that Haaretz asked for the ad, saying "not every [ad] salesman knows what is OK and what is not."
At the end of Hazon's thirty-six hour campaign collecting signatures of supporters, they had a total count of 123,000 signatures. Among the supporters were the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Aryeh Stern, and the Chief Rabbi of the Old City, Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, according to Srugim news.
The LGBTQ community, especially the religious sector of the community, was shocked by Hazon's campaign. Avichai Abarbanel, head of Havruta, an organization of homosexual religious Israelis dedicated to the religious Jewish LGBT community, responded to the campaign in a post on his personal Facebook page. "[This campaign] attacks parents who are struggling with accepting their children and their families. It attacks religious communities which are trying to be inclusive. It attacks adult LGBT people, even those who are out of the closet, who need, once again, to deal with derogatory epithet and negative statements. It attacks the children of LGBT couples who, for no fault of their own, need to deal with a group of zeros who decided to wage war against them."
Abarbanel stressed, though, that "worst of all, this attacks LGBT youth, especially religious LGBT youth. It attacks them when they 'take it in the gut' in their family group (of which maybe, maybe some of them know about their sexuality, but this isn't always the case). It attacks them when they receive a message for the movement from their friends who send the message in groups and broadcast it to others. It attacks them when the discussion on guarding Judaism turns into [a discussion] on how to leave them [LGBT youth] outside and not how to embrace them and keep them within [the community]. This hurts and this can kill, driving [people] towards suicide."
Dekel Yehud is the coordinator of the religious groups of IGY (Israel Gay Youth), a youth group which works to provide a supportive and meaningful social framework for LGBT youth. He stated that "the Hazon movement took it upon itself to be G-d, and to establish what is normal and what isn't. We, religious LGBT people, believe that 'beloved is man that he was created in [G-d's] image' and 'G-d is close to all who call to Him in truth.
We accept ourselves as we are, and we accept through an honest internal experience that there is no defect in our sexuality or our identity and that it is a natural and healthy expression and is born from love and giving."
Yehud continued, saying "we choose to serve G-d and take part in the community of believers. There is nothing more normal than someone who wants to love, to raise a family, and to be a believer in the Torah with which he was raised. Anyone who doesn't understand this simple truth is a blind sinner: through their hate, their shaming of others, and their defamation of others."
"We are sure that our way will succeed because our intentions are pure. The Hazon movement will definitely fail, because it is driven by division and incitement," Yehud concluded."
At the end of his Facebook post, Abarbanel wrote "'Do not stand on the blood of your fellow, I am the Lord.' It is forbidden to stand idly by when someone else is in distress (definitely if you're the one causing the distress, right?)...I've already written here that we were all created in the image [of G-d], but it's something we have to work hard to keep."
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