By: Tal Schneider and Noga Tarnopolsky
“I’m a proud homophobe!” boasted Jewish Home candidate Bezalel Smotrich, who holds a rather Louis XIV (“L’État, c’est moi“) view of himself. Asked about gay rights, he declared: “Every person has the right to be abnormal at home, but he can’t ask of me as a state to see the idea as normal.”
Then he dug in, the state now standing in for God: “A state may determine what is a normal family unit, of a man, woman and children because that is what the Lord, blessed be He, ruled.” Smotrich, you’ll be happy to know, has a gay friend. Thankfully, he differentiates between “my ability to accept how a person wants to live at home and the Jewish character of the state.”
“We will encourage normal family units, of a father, mother and children.”
A funny thing happened on Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett’s Facebook page over Shabbat. While the religious Bennett was doing whatever he does on a Saturday, Israeli LGBT activists went wild posting self-portraits in uniform in reply to his Friday night message to the IDF troops that ended with the words: “We love you.”
The LGBT community is always active in Israeli electoral seasons. Members of the community generally vote Meretz, though this time their only representative in the Knesset, Nitzan Horowitz, has announced he’s retiring from politics. (Amir Ohana, 38, an openly gay attorney and IDF reserve major, made it onto the non-realistic 32nd slot in the Likud list.)
Bennett not only opposes gay marriage, he’s proud of it. “Let them in the media say that we are backwards, homophobes and extremists,” he challenged the world at a recent rally. Last Wednesday, LGBT activists with rainbow flags were physically assaulted at a Jewish Home rally in Haifa.
So after that Facebook greeting, the soldiers of the IDF spent the day showing Bennett their love back.
This tender image of two good-looking dudes in uniform kissing on the snows of the Golan has become the meme of the day. It is taken from the prize-winning 2002 film Yossi and Jagger, which tells the love story of an IDF officer and a conscripted soldier serving in Lebanon. (Israel has never had don’t-ask-don’t-tell laws.)
Others posted their own military images – showing Bennett some tough love in return.
The gay issue has been a thread running through this entire electoral season, actually.
It started with a polemic published last December under the headline Herzog, Save us from the Closet, written by the prominent gay columnist Gal Uchovsky.
Uchovsky claimed that “for the past two years” Israel’s Labor party has been harboring a semi-closeted member of parliament, ie, someone who operates openly in the gay community but is, lets say, discrete, as a public figure.
He issued Herzog a challenge: “get this person out of the closet, or out of parliament. It’s entirely up to you.”
“You cannot present yourself as a possible head of state if you countenance this hypocrisy,” he boomed.
Yeah, well. Labor party figures responded by sternly telling Uchovksy what he could do with his self-righteousness and reminding him of the right to privacy enjoyed even by members of parliament.
Then the right-wing got in on the action, with politicians from Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to former West Bank Settlement Council head Danny Dayan proclaiming their support for—wait for it—gay marriage, and, in Dayan’s case, sorrow for not having caught on earlier. Dayan, who failed to get a realistic spot as a Jewish Home primary candidate admitted he felt ashamed about a response he once gave in an interview on gay marriage:
הזדמנות טובה גם בשבילי להכות על חטא. אני תומך לגמרי בנישואין חד-מיניים. כל הבירבורים שהוספתי בראיון מסויים היו מעידה לשונית עליה אני מתייסר
— Dani Dayan (@dandayan) February 21, 2015
He’s not the only one. The orthodox rabbi Shai Piron, who served as minister of education for Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, was caught saying that “it is the right of Israel, perhaps even its obligation, to tell same-sex couples that they cannot be considered ‘families.’ However, we would grant them full economic rights.” Days later he retracted, confessing that “It was a terrible thing to say. It is not for me to say what is and isn’t a family.”
That’s right: an orthodox rabbi.
So Bennett’s really been out of the action. Until this Saturday, when the IDF decided to show him some real loving action.