Rishon Lezion City Councilman and regional Shas Party chairman Rabbi Aryeh Cohen penned a letter to Mayor Raz Kinstlich where he implored the local municipality last Wednesday to ban homosexual teachers from teaching or lecturing in the city.
The haredi (ultra-Orthodox) party MK began his letter with complaints about students who were lectured about the concept of same-sex couples joint parenting, exclaiming “I will not give you the permission and possibility to turn our city into Sodom and Gomorrah!”
Kinstlich had a sharp response for Cohen, saying “We are shocked that there are those who choose to spread such blatant, free hatred – even more so in 2021.
"Rishon Lezion is a pluralistic city that respects and contains all its residents," the mayor said. "We will continue to support all communities - secular, religious and LGBT - and our schools will continue to teach Bible lessons alongside lessons on gender and acceptance of the other. This proposal is intended to provoke provocations and divide solely for political purposes.”
Israeli Gay Youth (IGY) published Cohen’s letter online, which has been met with condemnation and disapproval.
Social Equality and Pensions Minister Meirav Cohen said that, "in the last budget, the Ministry of Social Equality increased sixfold the amount allocated to strengthening and promoting LGBT communities throughout the country, to about NIS 90 million for the next three years, so that every young man and woman from the LGBT community will know that they have an equal place in society.”
Israel's primary Sephardi haredi party, Shas was founded in 1984 under the leadership of former Sephardi chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who remained the party’s spiritual leader until his death eight years ago.
Kinstlich, a member of the Green Party, has been the mayor of Rishon Lezion since 2018.
Cohen and Kinstlich have traded barbs before, as the mayor revoked his powers as deputy mayor earlier this year over allegations about misconduct at his ultra-Orthodox kindergarten. Cohen published a letter after his position was revoked, clamoring that “Raz is leading mass desecration of Sabbath in the city, including public transportation on the Sabbath, insane support for LGBT people and more.”