Jerusalem deputy mayor, council member panned for ‘vile’ rant against LGBTQ people

At festive council meeting to mark unification of city, right-wing politicians call members of the community mentally ill

Members of the LGBQT community and supporters protest against Jerusalem city council member Yonatan Yosef, outside the Jerusalem Municipality town hall on May 22, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Members of the LGBQT community and supporters protest against Jerusalem city council member Yonatan Yosef, outside the Jerusalem Municipality town hall on May 22, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A special meeting of the Jerusalem City Council to mark the capital’s unification in 1967 devolved into a series of statements questioning the rights of LGBTQ people in the city, with a deputy mayor and council member suggesting that such people are mentally ill.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, who was chairing the meeting, drew criticism for not immediately silencing his deputy Aryeh King and council member Yonatan Yosef, Channel 12 reported Monday.

A small number of LGBTQ members and their supporters gathered to hold a protest against Yosef outside City Hall.

Though the capture of East Jerusalem in the Six Day War city was officially celebrated on Jerusalem Day, last Thursday, the special council meeting was held Sunday opposite the walls of the Old City.

During the gathering, council member Adir Schwartz, the leader of the Hitorerut party, proposed measures in support of the LGBTQ community in the city, including sending an official municipal representative to the coming pride parade and training municipal service providers in the particular needs of LGBTQ people.

He was cut off by Yosef, a right-wing religious member of the United Jerusalem party, who said “this is a subject that most of the residents of the city are not interested in.”

An argument ensued, with Yosef continuing to insist that Jerusalem is a holy city. “There are psychologists, there are psychiatrists,” he said, suggesting that members of the LGBTQ community require treatment.

Another voice could be heard suggesting that LGBTQ people should seek help from welfare services “and the appropriate places.”

Screen capture from video of a special meeting of the Jerusalem City Council, May 21, 2023. (Channel 12. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

“Why does everyone need something special?” Yosef continued and sarcastically asked, “Are only treatments to cut off and put things on, to change the sex of 9-year-old girls?”

King, the deputy mayor and also a right-wing activist, joined the discussion, saying, “If they [LGBT people] are normal, why do they need a separate budget?”

Jerusalem city councillor Aryeh King (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

As the debate heated up, Hitorerut council member Yovav Tzur challenged Lion, saying that by failing to rebuke his deputy and Yosef, he was, in essence, backing their views.

“I would prefer that these statements hadn’t been made,” responded Lion, who is also Orthodox.

“Ignorant and vile words spoken by council members who are supposed to serve all the residents of the city,” council member Schwarz said in a statement Monday. “When these are the members of Moshe Lion’s coalition, it is no wonder that this is the situation in Jerusalem, which only eight years ago saw the shocking murder of the late Shira Banki due to hatred and incitement.”

Banki, 16, was stabbed to death as she participated in the pride march though the city in 2015. Her murderer, Yishai Schlissel, an ultra-Orthodox extremist, carried out the attack just a few weeks after being released from prison, where he had served 10 years for stabbing and injuring marchers at the 2005 parade. He is currently serving a life sentence.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion addresses an event at the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem on April 27, 2023. (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Alon Shachar, CEO of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, said in a statement: “We, LGBT residents of Jerusalem, are not inferior to anyone else, and we will continue to fight for our right to exist in this city and everywhere.”

“Every LGBT person has a place in Jerusalem; we will fight for it and not give up,” he vowed and urged the public to attend the pride march on June 1 in solidarity.

Yesh Atid MK Yorai Lahav-Hertzano, who is gay, told Channel 12: “We are not defective, not ill, and don’t need medical treatment or repair.”

He called on Lion to condemn the “shocking statements made in his presence by his deputy.”

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