In a marked intervention in the Israeli Parliament, member of the ultra-orthodox Shas party Shlomo Benizri blamed gays for recent earthquakes in the country. In this he remained true to previous homophobic utterings of his party.
In a session on the preparedness for earthquakes, the Member of Knesset (MK) proposed to withdraw legislation that “encourages sodomy” and other “perversions like adoptions by lesbian couples as a cost-effective preventive solution, rather than reinforce buildings etc. He supported his argument with quotes from the Talmud, proving that gay relations are at the root of quakes.
On a previous occasion, another Shas MK, Nissim Ze’ev likened homosexuality to a plague “as toxic as bird flu” which is causing Israel to self-destruct. At this very session, bills banning gay pride parades in Jerusalem were accepted for consideration.
Israeli LGBT-organisations reacted shocked to these further attempts to discriminate them, as they work in an already intolerant environment. The NGO Open House, which is planning to organise this year’s world-pride in Jerusalem, receives fierce opposition from Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders, but they refuse to leave the capital exclusively in the hands of the ultra-orthodox.
On the contrary, this Jerusalem-based organisation has launched Al-Qaws (the rainbow) which will be officially founded on this first of March. The organisation intends to host and support the Arabic gay and lesbian community in Israel. On their first party, a feeling of liberation reigned: not only gender but also national identities were transcended as Jewish and Arab, straight and gay mingled.
In a similar spirit Mike Hammel, chairman of Israels GLBT association, managed to see a touch of humour in this “competition to disparage [the gay] community”. “On the one hand, it is sad that a religious MK doesn’t believe earthquakes are caused by God. On the other hand, it is flattering that he attributes supernatural powers to us.”