Yonatan Gher
Full time peace, human rights, environmental, social and religious-pluralism activist
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Eli Yishai’s hatred is not just for my kids

The Yachad party's desperate campaign is loaded with homophobia and a list of other hatreds

Yesterday, a draft campaign ad by Eli Yishai’s Yachad party was revealed, reading “So that there won’t be a boy with a dad and a dad.” Yishai later stated this was an unapproved draft, but clearly the leak was intentional, to both get free PR while not completely standing behind the message (but not denouncing it either).

When I saw this ad, it truly angered me. What do you mean “so that there won’t be a boy with a dad and a dad”? There already are. Thousands with two moms, two dads, and many other family structures. I have two such kids of my own. Objectively cute ones too. Keepers. Are they to disappear if Yishai is elected? And by whom? We know how incitement translates into violence towards the LGBTQ community, from simple gay bashing that occurs all the time, to the Haredi man who stabbed the teenager Shira Banki to death in the Jerusalem Pride March. Aiming this hatred now towards our children is truly frightening. So now I not only need to worry when walking hand in hand down the street with my husband, but also when pushing a stroller?

So I set out to the nearby police station and filed a complaint against Yishai and his party for inciting violence against my kids. Whether or not anything will come of the complaint is yet to be seen, though I was assured at the station that they will investigate the claim thoroughly.

Today Yachad’s campaign was launched. The one about my kid was not in it, but the extremism it stemmed from very much does. Each and every one of these campaign ads are hateful in a different kind of way, and all disguised as a fatherly concern for Jewish tradition.

Let’s look at some of them:

“So that our granddaughter won’t be married by a lawyer and a priest!”

My husband and I were wed by a lovely district court justice in Boise, Idaho, who also happened to be Jewish. This was far from the wedding I would have liked to have, in Israel, with our families and friends, and with our (non-Orthodox) Rabbi, Chuppa, cup and all. We can’t. Same sex couples can’t get married in Israel, nor can straight couples outside the Orthodox Rabbinate. So the reason I got married abroad is precisely because of laws that Yishai and like-minded politicians created.

“So that our children will know what Shabbat candles are!”

“So that our grandson knows what Kiddush is!”

While these two banners then refer to two different things: the Shabbat banner then says “in the past years there has been a dramatic increase in mixed-marriages and assimilation” (which at least in Israel, not that it matters, is a completely made-up fact), and the Kiddush banner then says “In the past two years hundreds of businesses and thousands of Jews were forced to work on Shabbat against their will (again, structured as if any kind of research has gone in to this).

I’ve grouped these two together because the main title tries to appeal to a value and our sense of tradition. They are the classic approach that Haredi parties try to use with traditional and secular voters, appealing to their sense of home and tradition while suggesting that they alone hold these values. My children light Shabbat candles and know all about Kiddush, and absolutely do not need Yishai’s help with these.

More to the point, while the banners discuss values, we need to remember that we’re not voting for values but for legislators. We must consider therefor the types of legislation Yishai envisions in order to implement these values. He’s talking quite simply about shutting down businesses on Shabbat and removing each of our choice as to how to observe our Shabbat. There would be one Shabbat – his – for everyone. And regarding mixed-marriages, considering that already two people of different faiths can’t get married in Israel, I shudder to think of what other legislation he plans on this front.

“So that the Western (wailing) wall doesn’t become a nightclub”

The banner then continues to say “In 2016 the Western wall was given to ‘the Reforms’ to conduct mixed prayers (with the word prayers purposely misspelled – תפלות to suggest these are not prayers, while using the root of the word the Hebrew word for “bland”), women with Tefillin and Bar Mitzvahs for dogs”. And they sent the viewer to look up “Bar Mizvah for dog” on youtube. I saved you the trouble.
This is so many kinds of hateful, as well as untruthful – non-orthodox Jews have by no means been given “The Kotel” for any kinds of prayers, for dogs or otherwise.

A question I was asked frequently yesterday after facebooking and tweeting my police complaint was: This is a joker of a politician who will be struggling to even get in to the next Knesset. Why give him free publicity?

Yes, indeed he is quite the joke, but nonetheless a dangerous one. And, we clearly speak to different audiences, so I doubt anyone looking at my tweet or reading this article would vote for him anyway. On the other hand, making this an issue did cause many political figures from the moderate right and throughout our new broad center (and of course the left) to speak out against homophobia yesterday, instead of fighting over who would bomb Gaza the most. I figure that’s a good thing.

Another takeaway for us from this ugly campaign, is that we really all need to stick together: The LGBTQ community, non-orthodox communities, anyone who wants ownership of their own Shabbat and to educate their kids on Judaism without Eli Yishai’s help: We should stick up for each-other more, and be there for one another when attacked by this ugly “Us Vs. them” campaigning.

About the Author
The writer is the Israeli Executive Director of Combatants for Peace. He has previously been the Executive Director of Amnesty International-Israel, Greenpeace Mediterranean, and the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, and Communications Director for the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel. Born in New York, Yonatan grew up in Jerusalem, and now lives in Jaffa with his husband and two sons. All opinions expressed are those of the writer only.
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