With anti-LGBT party Noam set to send a representative into the Knesset for the first time through the Religious Zionism party, Channel 12 on Wednesday aired recordings of the party’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Tsvi Tau, speaking out against the gay community and expressing hope of gaining a foothold in the Israeli parliament.
The recordings, made in the weeks leading up to the election, include Tau telling followers that “these homosexuals, these perverts, are miserable people. We want the voice of truth and the voice of faith and the voice of Torah to sound [in the Knesset], and for someone there to cry out all the time… someone who will not rest until this thing is off the agenda.”
He said pro-LGBT activists “bring into the Education Ministry — in the bottommost classes when the kids have no idea yet, in grades 1, 2, 3 — post-modernist values… ‘Values.’ Post-modernist poison.”
He added that when it comes to LGBT rights, “the left is even worse than the right. The right is tainted as well but the left is even more tainted. Now is our chance to get in, to bring Avi Maoz into the Knesset, so there will be a beginning of a foothold and the beginning of a protest against this thing.”
It is not yet final that Maoz, no. 6 on Religious Zionism’s list, will make it in. With some 88 percent of votes counted, the party currently has exactly six Knesset seats, but the numbers could yet change.
“One MK is not enough,” Tau said in a recording. “You understand it’s not enough. We hope there will be two and three and four, but it needs to start somewhere. Forsaking this front is impossible. Impossible!”
Israel has in recent years actively worked to portray itself as an LGBT-friendly oasis in the Middle East.
The Noam party burst onto the political scene in 2019 with a series of provocative highway billboards and video ads with the slogan “Israel chooses to be normal.” The party claims that the LGBT community has “forced its agenda” on the rest of Israeli society, which believes in a “normal” (heteronormative) family structure.
It has also likened LGBT and Reform Jews to the Nazis. A 2019 campaign video compares Reform Jews, left-wing activists and gay rights advocates to Nazis and Palestinian suicide bombers, saying all of them “want to destroy us.”
Tau is the founder of the hardline Har Hamor Yeshiva in Jerusalem. The octogenarian has been a leading voice in the national religious community against LGBT acceptance. In 2017, he wrote that homosexuality is the “ugliest deviation, which breaks down family life… and contradicts the first basis of human existence.”
The party merged with Otzma Yehudit ahead of the September 2019 election, but failed to cross the threshold. It then ran independently ahead of the March 2020 election before dropping out days before the race.
Ahead of this election, thanks in no small part to immense pressure from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Noam merged with both far-right Otzma Yehudit and Bezalel Smotrich’s National Union to run as the joint Religious Zionism alliance. The premier even freed up a spot on Likud’s list for a National Union candidate as he sought to prevent any right-wing votes from being wasted.
Even if Religious Zionism loses a seat, Maoz could yet make it into the Knesset through the so-called Norwegian Law, which allows ministers to resign from Knesset, thereby allowing candidates lower down the slate to enter instead.
Maoz, 64, served as director of the interior and housing ministries under ministers Natan Sharansky and Effi Eitam, respectively, in 1999-2001. Beyond the LGBT issue, Maoz campaigned on “strengthening the Jewish character of the State of Israel” by having stricter national observance of Shabbat, strengthening the Orthodox Rabbinate’s monopoly over religious life, injecting religious law into broader society and promoting “family values.”
In an interview with the Makor Rishon national religious weekly earlier this month, Maoz explained his concern regarding current social trends in Israel.
“There is an attempt to engineer our consciousness, to change our concepts. Until a decade ago, you could ask any child: ‘What is a family?’ He would tell you, ‘A father, a mother and children.’ You could ask him, ‘What is the nation of Israel?’ Every child once knew what is a Jew and what is a goy.”
He told the newspaper that the greatest strength of women is to get married and have children. Maoz is also against women serving in the IDF.
“The State of Israel is first and foremost Jewish and only afterward democratic,” he told Makor Rishon.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.