Justice minister blasts education minister’s ‘backwards’ remarks on LGBT couples

Responding to Rafi Peretz suggesting that gay marriages aren’t natural, mayors of three cities instruct schools to open Sunday’s classes with lesson on acceptance of the other

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Justice Minister Amir Ohana speaks at the Knesset on September 11, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Justice Minister Amir Ohana speaks at the Knesset on September 11, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Justice Minister Amir Ohana lambasted Education Minister Rafi Peretz on Saturday for comments Peretz made in a newspaper interview, where he appeared to call same-sex marriage unnatural.

Peretz was asked by Yedioth Ahronoth how he would respond if one of his children were gay. “Thank God my kids grew up naturally and healthy. They’re building their families from Jewish values,” he responded.

“In the religious public that lives according to the Torah, a normal family is a man and a woman,” he continued. “[We] don’t need to be ashamed that we live in this natural way.”

Ohana, who is Israel’s first openly gay minister, called Peretz’s remarks “reprehensible, backwards and wrong.”

The justice minister claimed his colleague’s views “are not based on knowledge and facts, but rather on prejudice.”

Education Minister Rafi Peretz attends a Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, December 23, 2019. (Flash90)

Ohana asserted that Peretz did not represent the government on the matter, claiming that the current coalition had given more to pro-LGBT causes than any other. He added that the Jewish Home chairman was seeking to cater to the views of a shrinking demographic in Israeli society.

Peretz, a former IDF chief rabbi, has caused several outcries over homophobic comments and again raised the ire of LGBT activists and lawmakers with his remarks published Friday.

The mayors of Tel Aviv, Herzliya and Givatayim each criticized the education minister and announced that they had instructed the schools in their respective municipalities to open classes on Sunday with lessons on LGBT acceptance.

“Look, Rabbi Rafi [Peretz], this is what a ‘natural and healthy’ family looks like,” Labor MK Itzik Shmuli wrote in tweet that included a photo of him with his partner and their son.

Meretz party leader Nitzan Horowitz called Peretz a “contemptible person” who he said was pandering to the far-right ahead of general elections in March.

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, who was military chief when Peretz was the IDF’s top rabbi, said that if he were prime minister he would not tolerate such views.

The LGBT umbrella organization Aguda called Peretz’s comments “irresponsible” and said they were providing an opening for homophobia and anti-gay violence.

Meretz party chairman Nitzan Horowitz, center, attends a protest of the LGBTQ community in Tel Aviv, July 14, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Peretz last year faced strong criticism for voicing support for conversion therapy, explaining in a TV interview how he had referred students to the treatment and had seen it was “possible” to change their sexual orientation.

He later walked back those remarks, saying he “utterly” opposes the “wrong and grave” practice.

In the Yedioth interview, Peretz called criticism of those comments “distorted” and said it was the hardest thing he had dealt with since entering politics last year.

Most Popular
read more: