Jerusalem chief rabbi compares gay pride marchers to ‘wild animals’

Shlomo Amar, the former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, laments religious participants in capital’s recent parade

Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar speaks during Jerusalem Day celebrations in Jerusalem, June 2, 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)
Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar speaks during Jerusalem Day celebrations in Jerusalem, June 2, 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, used harsh language to describe the LGBT community in Israel last week.

During a sermon on Thursday, the day of the Jerusalem Pride Parade, Amar compared the LGBT community to animals and mocked religious participants who take part.

“They did the abomination parade, which they are supposedly proud of,” Amar said in remarks first reported by the Kan public broadcaster. “Wild animals don’t behave this way,” he added.

“We have reached this disgrace, this debasement, this corruption, that there are people who are called religious, who wear a kippa” who take part in the parade, Amar said. “If only they would take it off, if only they would eat pork rather than do this action.”

Thousands of people take part in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, June 3, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Alon Shachar, the executive director of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, slammed Amar’s remarks.

“Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Amar chose to incite against and demean the LGBT community, instead of sending a message of tolerance and inclusion,” said Shachar. “The abomination here is not the parade, but the tenure and oppressive positions that Amar expresses.”

Shachar said there is “no place in Israeli public life for a chief rabbi who holds these views, even less so one whose job is funded by taxpayers.” He invited Amar to march with the Jerusalem Pride Parade next year: “If only spiritual leaders like Rabbi Amar could engage in bringing people together with love instead of inciting them with hatred.”

Amar made similar comments in 2019.

“There are people who call themselves religious who also fell into that trap,” he said at the time in reference to gay people. “They aren’t religious. It would be better if they cast off their kippah and Shabbat [observance] and show their true faces… With their bodies they sin against the Jewish people,” he said, using a Talmudic phrase meaning they are irreligious.

Some 7,500 people marched in Jerusalem’s annual pride parade Thursday evening, chanting for equality and holding aloft brightly painted signs supporting LGBT rights. More than 3,000 police officers secured the highly charged event, six years after a deadly attack on participants.

Right wing activists demonstrate against the annual Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem, on June 3, 2021. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The event demanding LGBT equality began with a ceremonial prayer for Shira Banki, who was stabbed to death by an ultra-Orthodox extremist during the 2015 parade when she was 16 years old. As thousands filled the capital’s streets, a small demonstration protesting the parade was held by members of the far-right and anti-gay Lehava organization.

Many streets in the capital’s city center were closed and the thousands of police officers on duty secured the parade’s route. The 2.5-kilometer (1.55 miles) march, from the city’s Liberty Bell Park to Independence Park, began at 2:30 p.m., signaling the start of pride month events in Israel.

The annual event is a highlight for the city’s vibrant LGBT community, which is often overshadowed by Tel Aviv’s gay-friendly persona and beset by religious and political tensions ever-present in the capital.

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