The education minister of Israel implied that being gay is not “natural” during an interview with the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.
Education Minister Rafi Peretz was asked how he would respond if one of his children came out as gay. He replied, “Thank God my kids grew up in a healthy and natural way… They’re building their families from Jewish values.”
Later in the interview, Peretz added: “A normal family is as man and a woman… [We] don’t need to [be] ashamed that we live in this natural way.”
In addition to being the education minister, Peretz is the head of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party and a former chief rabbi in the Israeli Defense Forces.
A fellow cabinet member, Justice Minister Amir Ohana, is openly gay and has children with his partner. Ohana spoke out against Peretz’ comments, calling them “wretched” and saying they “do not reflect the government’s position.”
“I grew up in a healthy, good and loving family, as are my children and the children of many LGBTs from all parts of the country, from all over the political spectrum,” Ohana wrote on Twitter.
Other politicians have also joined the chorus of criticism against Peretz. Nitzan Horowitz of the Meretz party called Peretz a “contemptible person”. Israeli Labour representative Itzik Shmuli shared a photo of himself with his partner and son and wrote: “This is what a ‘natural and healthy’ family looks like.”
This isn’t the first time Peretz has come under fire for homophobic comments. Last year, the education minister also praised the virtues of conversion therapy.
In response to Peretz’s latest comments, several school districts held impromptu tolerance classes on Sunday. In Tel Aviv, many teachers started the day with 15 minutes of discussion about “tolerance, living together and variations on the concept of family.”
Amir Kochavi, mayor of Hod Hasharon near Tel Aviv, explained his decision to teach tolerance classes on Facebook. “I will promote within the municipal educational system a program of democracy, equality, recognition of the other and acceptance of differences,” Kochavi wrote. “In short – everything that is the opposite of Rabbi Rafi.”