Thursday, July 12, 2012

Havruta religious LGBT organization urges members to join right-wing Zionist-religious party Habayit Hayehudi. Minister Hershkowitz: 'I suspect this is a PR stunt'

Havruta religious LGBT organization urges members to join right-wing Zionist-religious party Habayit Hayehudi. Minister Hershkowitz: 'I suspect this is a PR stunt'
Kobi Nahshoni
Published: 07.08.12, 14:31 / Israel Jewish Scene
The religious homosexuals and lesbian organization 'Havruta' is calling on its members to register as members of the Habayit Hayehudi party with the purpose of establishing a "gay cell" within its ranks and thus influence the position of the members of the gay and lesbian community within the religious public.

The party is currently registering new members ahead of the primaries and so far, several 'Havruta' members have joined. The man behind the initiative, Daniel Jonas even plans on sending out a letter on the matter to all Havruta members.

In an interview with Ynet, Jonas emphasized that he was not calling on anyone to join the party if they did not intend to vote for it in the future, but he sees a great deal of importance in having those that identify with the party do so. "I myself have not registered, as my (political) opinions go in a different direction," he admitted, "but this is proof that it isn't just a gimmick or provocation, this is a real move."

It is unclear whether the Habayit Hayehudi party are pleased with their newest members, but the person who led to the registration surge was actually a Knesset Member from a rival party, Uri Daniel from the National Union party who recently claimed that there was no place for gays in the military or public service.

His statements caused outrage in the LGBT community and spurred them to try to influence matters from the inside.

Political influence 

"We're making a statement that the Mafdal (Habayit Hayehudi) is our (party) too – and that in itself is significant," Jonas noted. "Our voice needs to be heard and our thoughts and needs need to be taken into account."

According to Jonas, the new party members include parents of religious gays and lesbians: "They may be able to blow us off with claims that we cannot be included, and they can even put it into the party statute, but what about the people who want to care for their children? They can't feel like they belong either?"

Tzvika Kenrik, whose son is gay, told Makor Rishon's Motsash magazine that "If there is a candidate who focuses on the LGBT community rights, I'd make sure to support him and would make sure my friends do too." He believes that groups always have more political influence.

Tehorit Shorek, a religious lesbian, has also joined the party. "For years I voted Mafdal (Habayit Hayehudi) and to me it was the most natural thing in the world … now (I feel) like it's closing a circle and connecting all of my identities – religious, political and sexual," she told Ynet.

Shorek does not have high expectations of where the move will take the religious LGBT community but she does believe that it will promote awareness of their existence – "that there are religious right wing gays and lesbians. We need to root out ignorance on the issue. Maybe that way someone will get up and condemn statements like those made by Uri Ariel."

The Chairman of the Habayit Hayehudi party, Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz said in response: "There is no group registration to the party. Anyone who identifies with the values of religious Zionism and fulfills the criteria set by the registration committee is welcome to register. I suspect that this is a PR stunt and nothing more."

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