Mayor Moshe Abutbul of Beit Shemesh, Israel, claims there are “no gays” in his city, which he compares to the Garden of Eden.
Abutbul, who was re-elected in late October, told a Channel 10 reporter, “We don’t have things like that…thank God, this city is holy and pure…”
Regarding any gays who are in Abutbul’s sans-gay paradise, he added that the health ministry or the police could “take care of them.”
Activists have responded by organizing a gay pride parade to take place this Thursday, November 14.
“The mayor of Beit Shemesh says that there are no gays in his city. He’s asked the police to deal with this phenomenon,” gay activists wrote in a statement released on November 10 via social media. “Well, we talked to the police, and they’ll deal with us—with a pride parade…This is the moment to show our power as a community. This is more important than any party, or any march we were in over the summer.”
In the same Channel 10 segment, a Beit Shemesh Rabbi, Yitzhak Hagar, said that the reason the city allegedly lacks the presence of any LGBT people is because they do a great job of “treating” their “psychological problems.”
“The central problem is a psychological problem, which needs treatment,” said Hagar. “In our community the problem is treated very, very well.”
Elinor Sidi, a Beit Shemesh native and head of Jerusalem Open House, an LGBT organization, told Ynet News, “I can only regret the change the city has undergone in recent years.” Sidi also condemned the city’s “hatred, ignorance, homophobia, and racism,” adding that LGBT people were there “before Abutbul.”
“[Abutbul’s] Judaism is not the Judaism I was raised on,” said Sidi.
Abutbul is a member of Shas—an Israeli orthodox religious political party. After just barely winning the election against secular opponent Eli Cohen in October, citizens organized a protest and instigated a voter fraud police investigation. It was reported that Abutbul won the election by a very narrow margin, with a lead of less than 950 votes. He was arrested and questioned at the beginning of November, but released on Monday, November 4.