Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) responded to the stabbing attack at the gay pride parade in Jerusalem on Thursday by ordering a massive enlargement of funds for Israel's gay youth organization, in a surprising move given his party's conservative positions on homosexuality in the past.
The Jewish Home chairperson held a special meeting with his team on Thursday night following the stabbing, reports Yedioth Aharonoth. In the meeting he ordered senior members of the Education Ministry under his charge to prepare an educational plan to prevent acts and incitement against the homosexual community.
As part of those steps, he ordered a significant increase in the budget of the Israeli Gay Youth (IGY) organization.
"I won't allow it, that in the state of Israel, youths fear going out in the streets because of their lifestyle," said Bennett, who in the last coalition was Jerusalem Affairs Minister. "We respond to this attack with actions and not just with words, so as to strengthen and to give tools to youth suffering from racism and homophobia in schools."
Bennett's active support of gay youth may strike some as ironic given the fact that his party was itself criticized for a January video ahead of elections, in which leading party members were shown stating their opposition to same-sex marriage – opposition which Reform and leftist critics labeled "primitive."
He defended the video by saying, "I love the people of Israel – all of them, including homosexuals, I served with them and I fought alongside them and for them. …Formal Judaism does not recognize same-sex marriage, just as you cannot pass a law that eating meat with milk is kosher. What did we do in the last Knesset? We were pragmatic. We said – no to formal recognition, yes to rights.”
The comment refers to a law giving same-sex couples equal tax breaks which Bennett voted for even as his fellow party members abstained, thus allowing it to pass. The vote followed a compromise in which same-sex couples were granted equal benefits without being officially recognition in the legislation, thus sparing Jewish Home from being perceived as officially condoning same-sex marriage.
Homosexuality is strictly forbidden by Jewish law.
Questions on Jewish Home's stance regarding key religious Zionist issues were raised on Wednesday, when controversial statements by the party's MK Yinon Magal made last Friday were published.
In a Tel Aviv University conference, Magal said he was willing "to give up on land in exchange for peace," adding "it's a bummer to be an occupier."
Arutz Sheva contacted a spokesperson for the Jewish Home for comment on the statement on Wednesday but has yet to receive a response.