In a contentious sermon on June 3, Shlomo Amar, the former Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel compared pride marchers to wild animals. In his speech, he said, "They did the abomination parade, which they are supposedly proud of; wild animals don't behave this way." He then went on to add, "We have reached this disgrace, this debasement, this corruption, that there are people who are called religious, who wear a kippa," referring to the actively practicing religious queer people who joined the Pride march in Jerusalem on that day.
Shlomo Amar, Jerusalem’s chief rabbi and the former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, has sparked outrage over his comments about an LGBTQ+ march that took place last weekhttps://t.co/AIIwIb4clm
— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) June 8, 2021
Amar, currently the chief rabbi of Jerusalem, has been infamous for making bigoted comments against the LGBTQIA+ community from his Sephardic chief rabbi days. In an interview, he referred to the queer community as a "cult of abomination" and prognosed that being gay should be punishable by execution under Jewish law. He described queerness as "The first line of serious sins" and said that he believes homosexuality will "wane and disappear because most of the public is disgusted by it and detest it.”
The pride march in Jerusalem this month was the first pride march in Israel after two years due to the coronavirus outbreak. Over 7,500 people marched 2.5 kilometers, under the security of more than 3000 police officers, with flags and posters seeking acceptance and tolerance for the individuals of the LGBTQIA+ community. There were also people wearing religious items marching in the parade, to which the rabbi commented, "They aren't religious. It would be better if they cast off their kippah and Shabbat [observance] and show their true faces… With their bodies they sin against the Jewish people."
The executive director of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, Alon Shachar, reacted to the rabbi's hateful sermon with strong protest. "Jerusalem chief rabbi Amar chose to incite against and demean the LGBT+ community, instead of sending a message of tolerance and inclusion," he said, "The abomination here is not the parade, but the tenure and oppressive positions that Amar expresses." He went on to add, "no place in Israeli public life for a chief rabbi who holds these views, even less so one whose job is funded by taxpayers." He also invited Amar to march with the Jerusalem Pride Parade next year, quoting, "If only spiritual leaders like Rabbi Amar could engage in bringing people together with love instead of inciting them with hatred."
The parade began with a ceremonial prayer for Shira Banki, the 16-year-old woman who was stabbed to death by an extremist during the 2015 parade. The murderer was later convicted with a life sentence. The march began at 2:30 p.m. from the city's Liberty Bell Park to Independence Park. Thousands of members of the far-right and anti-gay Lehava organization were present in the streets protesting against the march this year as well. However, due to the heavy police security, no major mishap was reported.
Another pride march is scheduled for June 25 in Tel Aviv after a year of hiatus due to the pandemic restrictions. In 2019, about 250 thousand people took part in this parade, being that it’s one of the largest LGBTQIA+ events globally and the most significant in the Middle East.