Prominent Orthodox Israeli journalist Yair Cherki comes out as gay

‘I tremble as I write these words,’ Channel 12 religious affairs reporter writes in a Facebook post that quickly goes viral; ‘I love men and God, and this isn’t contradictory’

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

Channel 12 news reporter Yair Cherki at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on October 4, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)
Channel 12 news reporter Yair Cherki at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on October 4, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

A veteran Orthodox journalist on the country’s most-watched news network came out as gay on Tuesday.

“I love men and I love God, and this is neither contradictory nor new,” wrote Channel 12’s Yair Cherki in a Facebook post that quickly garnered thousands of likes and shares.

Cherki grew up in a national religious community in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Moshe neighborhood where his father, Ori, is a community rabbi in addition to being a lecturer at the prominent Machon Meir yeshiva. He served in the military as a religious affairs reporter for Army Radio and was hired to fill the same role for Channel 12 shortly after his discharge in 2014.

Cherki had long been known for his payot — the sidecurls often sported by ultra-Orthodox men. Recently, he cut them off.

“I tremble as I write these words,” he wrote in his Facebook post on Tuesday, admitting that he had wanted to come out numerous times over the previous decade but had kept pushing it off.

“But now I am 30 years old, and I write not because I have the strength to write, but because I have no strength to be silent. [But I also write] for my son who has not yet come into this world,” Cherki continued.

את המילים האלה אני כותב ברעד. דוחה. למחר. לשבוע הבא. לאחרי החגים. לאחרי היום הולדת הבא. של השנה הזאת, של השנה שעברה ושל…

Posted by ‎יאיר שרקי‎ on Tuesday, February 14, 2023

He explained that he was choosing to go public with something he considered a “private matter,” because he didn’t want to have to “live in the shadows” and wanted to “come home to his family and live in the truth.”

Cherki recognized the apparent conflict between his sexuality and his religious beliefs, and said, “I try to reconcile this contradiction within myself in all kinds of ways.”

Still, he pushed back against those who might doubt his intentions, writing that “this is neither a trend nor a political statement: It is simply who I am.

“I don’t know if I would call it an identity. Just another element of who I am and who I have been since the day I came into my own,” Cherki wrote.

He said he still felt a part of the national religious community in which he was raised, and insisted that his beliefs had not changed. “However, they did take shape over the years alongside the doubts, and from this difficulty, which necessitates a different outlook on faith, truth and complexity.

“I know that this truth that I shared here saddens people dear to me who I love very much and that love me [too]. I hope you find the place in your soul that will allow you to discuss this properly,” Cherki wrote.

He expressed his hope that those challenged by the news would understand that he decided to come out “after deep thought and consideration.”

“Your sorrow, perhaps, also stems from a lack of understanding of what I am actually talking about here,” Cherki said, arguing that his decision did not stem from a lost battle with his desires. He shared that for years, he tried to ignore his sexuality him, to suppress it, to push it away and even to receive treatment.

“I do not regret any of these efforts, because perhaps without them I would not have been able to reach the conclusions that I did,” he wrote, acknowledging that his main regret was over the time that it took him to reach this understanding about himself.

The post quickly went viral, with politicians across the political spectrum expressing their love and appreciation for Cherki’s words. They included MKs from the Likud, Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beytenu, National Unity and Labor parties. Even a pair of MKs from the far-right religious Otzma Yehudit party, whose chairman, Itamar Ben Gvir, regularly protested against the Jerusalem Pride Parade, responded to Cherki’s post with heart emojis.

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