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Rabbis in Israel Rally Behind Cleric Who Called Gays “Perverts”

As thousands of police prepare to secure Jerusalem’s gay pride parade a year after an extremist Jew stabbed and killed a 16-year-old girl at the parade, about 250 rabbis have published a statement in support of Rabbi Yigal Levenstein who referred to gays as “perverts.” Levenstein is the head of a state-supported pre-army academy in the West Bank and his statement set off a firestorm in Israel, which has always been open to gays serving in the military, with some calling for his resignation. Levenstein was barred from visiting army bases. In the statement, the 250 rabbis, many of them leaning toward the more ultra-Orthodox Zionist stream, denounced what they called “an attempt to silence Israel’s rabbis.” Organizers of the gay pride march are expecting thousands of participants from around Israel, after the parents of Shira Banki, the young woman killed last year, urged Israelis to attend. Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat said he would not come in order not to offend ultra-Orthodox sensibilities. The Bible calls homosexuality an “abomination.”