Schools, organizations and politicians throughout the country reacted with shock after Bayit Yehudi leader Rafi Peretz yet again made homophobic statements.
Peretz said a normative family is “with a man and a woman, and should be kept [that way].”
“Thank God my children grew up naturally and healthily,” Peretz said in an interview with Yediot Aharonot on Friday in response to a question about what he would do if one of his children were to come out of the closet.
People across the country organized protests and events in response to the remarks.
On Monday, a protest by local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists will be held in front of a school in Beit Shemesh that Peretz is scheduled to visit.
Avi Gruber, mayor of Ramat Hasharon, met with LGBT families, youth and allies on Sunday in a workshop organized by the Israel Gay Youth (IGY) movement. No other mayor has taken part in such a workshop.
Gruber stressed that when he read Peretz’s statements and looked at his daughter, Elah, he could not help but think about if anyone has the right from stopping LGBT parents from experiencing the joy of being a parent. “I have no doubt that the answer is no,” said Gruber.
Ofer Yehudi, the head of IGY’s Training Center, expressed excitement about “this opportunity to present such an important workshop to an elected official who has chosen to make a strong moral statement in the face of the hateful and fearful words of the education minister. This is an important example for all residents of the city and all mayors in Israel and an opportunity to form an in-depth dialogue in the face of superficial and dangerous statements.”
The education system in Misgav Regional Council formed multiple educational initiatives in light of Peretz’s comments to encourage tolerance and acceptance of LGBT people. Many teachers in the regional council dedicated Sunday morning to discussions about tolerance and inclusion as a response to Peretz’s remarks. The head of the Education Department in Misgav asked educators to also discuss dehumanizing remarks by Peretz about non-Jews.
Barak Eilam, CEO of NICE, an Israel-based data analysis and security company, responded to Peretz’s comments on his LinkedIn page, saying his company is working “around the clock to develop technology that will convert and fix Mr. Peretz turning him into a normative person.”
Eilam called Peretz “a proud racist, anti LGBTQ rights, anti women rights and anti equality” and invited “anyone willing to help” to contact him.
Labor-Gesher MK Itzik Shmuli tweeted a picture of himself with his husband and son saying “this is how a ‘natural and healthy’ family looks,” adding that the revolt of authorities against “the minister of darkness and hate is natural and healthy for the country.“
Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit Party, said he was shocked at the uproar, telling 103FM he “doesn’t understand the assault on Rafi Peretz. What, have we turned into Iran? Is it forbidden for him to say that he wants his son to marry a woman? On this, they’re trying to shut him up!”
Justice Minister Amir Ohana called Peretz’s remarks “utterly obscene” and stressed that the education minister does not represent the government’s position, according to KAN. “These are voices that are diminishing within the Israeli society and even within the public that Peretz claims to represent,” added Ohana, who stressed that he would not discuss the issue of who should or shouldn’t be a minister.
Democratic Union leader Nitzan Horowitz tweeted a photograph of his family, saying, “Rafi Peretz is a lowly man. This is how the education minister intends to scrape votes from the extreme Right.
“Who are you to tell me how to live my life?” he continued. “Wishing everyone different parents than you.”
Havruta, an organization for religious gay men, stressed that there are families in the Jewish community with two fathers and two mothers who live by Jewish values of love, giving and health and “everything is very natural.” The organization stressed, “The unnatural sickness is hatred for us and our families.
“With the help of G-d, we in Havruta will continue to build a community with Jewish values and to establish natural and healthy families and good houses in Israel,” the organization said.Multiple LGBTQ+ groups released a short lesson plan for teachers to use on Sunday morning to discuss Peretz's statements, including showing a short video by children of LGBTQ+ parents and possible discussion questions. On Tuesday, the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute will host a conference called "A normal nation in our land?" a play on the slogan of the anti-LGBTQ+ far right Noam party. The conference will discuss relevant issues to sexuality and gender debates in Israel.
In July, Peretz said he believed “conversion therapy” could succeed in “converting” homosexual people to be heterosexual and that he had given counseling on the matter. He later retracted the statements.
Tamar Beeri contributed to this report.