An ultra-Orthodox school disinvited Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin from its opening ceremony for the new school year next week over his support for the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade in the wake of last month’s stabbing attack at the event.
Rivlin has generated a hail of criticism online over his denunciation of racism and homophobia in Israeli society following the attack on the parade that left five wounded and 16-year-old Shira Banki dead, and the arson attack by suspected Jewish terrorists in the West Bank village of Duma that same day that killed 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsha and his father Saad.
“President Rivlin has become a ‘persona non grata’ at the school,” reports Army Radio, who broke the story.
The publicly funded Kehilot Yaakov school in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot, disinvited Rivlin “at the instruction of its rabbis,” according to an official at the Jerusalem Municipality who notified the President’s Residence Monday of the cancellation.
“It’s hard to hear this. It’s very sad,” said Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Tamir Nir. “I want to praise the president and strengthen him. His is a sane, rational voice in Israel in support of all its citizens, including its Haredi ones.”
Some Haredi voices criticized the school’s decision. Shas MK Ya’akov Margi, who chairs the Knesset Education Committee, condemned the school’s decision on Army Radio.
“We have to support the president of the state for his work to bring people closer together. The school’s decision is sad, and the Jerusalem Municipality’s cooperation with the decision is a problem. He was planning to talk about the need for unrequited love for one another. What’s so terrible about that?”
Margi called on Education Minister Naftali Bennett “to look into the decision of this principal and decide if he should continue to teach Israel’s schoolchildren.”
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, of the nationalist-religious Jewish Home party, also criticized the exclusion of Rivlin. “The president is our president, even if you don’t agree with his views. It’s crucial to respect the president of the state, Israel’s first citizen,” he said.
There was no immediate response from the President’s Residence or school officials Tuesday morning.