The head of the hesder yeshiva in Mitzpe Ramon called on students to “fight” against LGBTQ+ people in a recent speech, telling his audience to say “gays, go home!” in their workplaces, according to footage shared by KAN news.
“This is the battle that I tell everyone, each one in his place. Don’t be shy. Be courageous. Where you work say ‘LGBTQ+ people, go home!’ ‘gays, go home!’” said Rabbi Tzvi Kustiner, the head of the yeshiva.
Kustiner claimed there was much violence and sexual abuse among LGBTQ+ people, and called them “Evil people! They’re going to put this craziness in every home and we’re silent, scared. Parent 1, parent 2, crazy!” according to the video.
“Fight them on everything. It is our job in every place not to be ashamed of our Judaism. This crazy government, this insanity, God willing it will fall,” added the yeshiva head, with a number of students responding “Amen,” the video footage shows.
Kustiner is a member of the Noam Party, headed by MK Avi Maoz. Noam is an extremist party established by members of the hard-line wing of the religious-Zionist community – specifically, close associates and allies of Rabbi Zvi Yisrael Tau, head of Yeshivat Har Hamor.
Noam was formed by leaders of the Hazon movement, a hard-line national-religious organization that campaigns against reform Jews and the LGBTQ+ community. The party has largely pushed the same lines, running on the platform to make Israel “a normal nation” with anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-reform movement slogans.
Havruta, an organization for religious LGBTQ+ men, condemned the statements on Tuesday, saying “the only wicked one is the one who comes from the lobby of hate and the family destruction organizations. Like the zealots who destroyed our temple, they desire to increase free hatred, internal incitement, sedition and incitement to violence, in order to bring upon us a third destruction.”
“Apparently the desert encourages fanatics to madness today as it did 2,000 years ago,” added Havruta. “During the counting of the Omer, the disciples of Rabbi Akiva died due to free hatred, and in the Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot) read at this time of year we read ‘Hillel says: be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving mankind and drawing them close to the Torah.’”
“Havruta will continue to increase charity to bring people closer to the Torah, even if they’re LGBTQ+, and will fight the evil that befalls our people, in spite of the opposition of those who are bad to people and bad to heaven, made up in a guise of Jacob,” added the organization.
'Words have tremendous power'
ALON SHACHAR, CEO of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, warned that “We have already learned on our flesh that words have tremendous power and they can hurt and even kill.
“A rabbi who calls for such incitement, calls the members of the community ‘wicked’ and denies their existence in Israeli society is no less criminal,” added Shachar. “We suggest that a person who calls himself a rabbi, and in the name of Judaism defames an entire population, do an urgent self-examination.”
Hila Peer, chairwoman of the Agudah – The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel, responded to the rabbi’s statements on Tuesday as well, calling them “Dangerous and dark statements that remind us again why we are marching and how important it is to fight hatred.”
“We all remember where those words can lead and their heavy price,” added Peer. “In the face of this incitement one must not remain silent and the head of the council is expected to condemn things before the next case of violence. Our community will continue, exists with great pride as it exists everywhere and also in Mitzpe Ramon.”
Yesh Atid MK Yorai Lahav Hertzanu expressed outrage at Kustiner’s comments, tweeting “I am Jewish, Israeli, gay and I am proud of this.”
“These are wild and dangerous words of incitement,” added the MK. “This same rabbi does damage to Judaism, divides, tears apart and harms people just because of who they are. On July 1, I will march in the Pride march in Mitzpe Ramon and I call on the whole house of Israel to come and march with us. The light will overcome the darkness.”
Kustiner’s statements come about a month after Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Rabbi Dr. Elad Dukov used the experience of victims of the Holocaust to condemn LGBTQ+ students at the university.
Dukov later apologized for his statements, saying he formulated his words “in a way that may be interpreted as not reflecting my position and values.”
The statement in question appeared as a WhatsApp message where Dukov spoke out against a party organized by the LGBTQ+ student group TechnoQueers, writing: “Holocaust Remembrance Day, [is] when we remember the terrible Holocaust in which the people of Israel gave up their lives and fought against those trying to destroy and erase the image of God in man. The boorishness and the callousness of the party that was organized on Tuesday is exactly the opposite spirit of this.”
“The steadfastness of the Jewish spirit in these subjects is not easy and thank God throughout the years, we have merited to protect the campus as much as possible,” added the rabbi. “Unfortunately, they are acting very violently, which is causing the silencing of matter-of-fact criticism, but I am sure that most of the nonreligious campus is not comfortable with the callous party of these 50 to 80 people and especially on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.”
The student group that organized the party stressed in a Facebook post that the party did not take place on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day and that there were 300, not 50 to 80, participants.
Homosexuals were one of the groups targeted by the Nazi regime. Between 5,000 to 15,000 men were sent to concentration camps as “homosexual offenders” and tens of thousands of others were imprisoned elsewhere. Those sent to camps were forced to wear a pink triangle to identify them, with many survivor accounts saying that pink triangle prisoners were among the most abused groups in the camps. It is unknown how many homosexuals were murdered in the Holocaust.