Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday met with organizations representing Israel's gay community. Bennett called the meeting in order to discuss the needs of young members of the community and their place in Israeli society. The participants in the meeting raised ideas on how the Education Ministry could assist the groups, both within and outside the educational system.
The meeting took place just a short time before officials announced that 16-year-old Shira Banki had died in hospital after being stabbed in the back by haredi extremist Yishai Schlissel, who attacked marchers at the annual Jerusalem gay parade Thursday. Five other people were also injured in the attack, one of them seriously, before Schlissel was wrestled to the floor and disarmed by police.
Bennett said that he was moved by the struggles participants in the meeting had undergone. “Many of you have undergone difficult personal issues, to the extent that some of you considered suicide. These things are awful and unacceptable,” said Bennett. “I will not accept any discrimination against anyone in the educational system on the basis of race, religion, or political or sexual persuasion.”
During the meeting, participants told Bennett how they were often bullied and made fun of by both studnets and teaching staff. Bennett said that while what had happened last week was a terrible tragedy, it also presented an opportunity. “We discussed at the meeting how we would increase financial assistance to groups representing gay youth, in order to help increase tolerance and prevent further damage.”
Oded Fried, a representative of the gay community, said that the community “had many needs. We are appreciative that the minister invited us to meet with him, and we hope to meet with more ministers and Knesset members in ordet to discuss important issues.”