Pride flag (illustrative)
Pride flag (illustrative) iStock

Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, a member of the Sephardic-haredi Shas party and of the Rishon Lezion municipal council, sent a letter to the city's mayor demanding that lecturers from the LGBT community be banned from entering educational institutions.

"You should be ashamed of yourselves, sinners who lead the masses to sin," he wrote. "I will not give you permission and the possibility to turn our city into Sodom and Gomorrah."

Rishon Lezion Mayor Raz Kinstlich responded, "We are saddened and horrified that there are those who choose to spread baseless and gross hatred like this, even in the year 2021."

"Rishon Lezion is a pluralist city which respects and accepts all of its residents. We will continue to support all communities - secular, religious, and LGBT, and in our schools we will continue teaching Bible studies along with classes on gender and the acceptance of others.

"I am sorry that this proposal was intended to arouse provocation and division only for political needs. With such dark opinions, the only one who should be banned from entering municipal institutions is Aryeh Cohen himself," the mayor added.

The coalition of religious LGBT organizations, Havruta, Bat Kol, and Shoval responded: "We are saddened by the unfortunate statement by a Rishon Lezion municipal council member, who said that gay lecturers should be prohibited from entering schools, and regarding his concerns in dealing with reality. We see this as a complete religious contradiction to the religious concepts of 'let your comrade's respect be as dear to you as your own,' the prohibition to embarrass others in public, and [the principle] to love others."

"Along with the encouraging responses from other members of the council, we would be happy to see active steps, in which the municipality proves to the religious community that it sees as its own responsibility to hold an accepting and allowing discourse which provides space for LGBTs in the city in general and in educational and public religious frameworks in particular."