Earlier this month, as 125,000 Tel Avivis marched in the city’s largest-ever gay pride parade, Yair Lapid, Israel’s Minister of Finance, was on hand to offer his greetings. “I’m proud to be here today because supporting the gay community, its rights, its equality before the law, that’s part of what defines me as a human being,” he said. “As long as the gay community doesn’t enjoy all of its rights, that means we’re not yet living in the kind of country where I want to live.”
Lapid’s number two, however, Minister of Education Shai Piron, wants to live in a very different country. “I think it’s a Jewish state’s right, maybe even its duty, to say to same-sex couples who decide to live their lives together—that’s not a family,” Piron said in an interview today. A rabbi and the former head of a yeshiva, Piron went on to express his support for basic economic rights for gay Israelis, but repeated that he could not stomach the usage of terms like “a couple” or “a family” to describe same-sex unions.
Piron’s statement would have been lamentable regardless, but the fact that it was made by the man helming Israel’s educational system is particularly troubling. Instead of carrying out his mission, so central to Israel’s democracy, and sending a message that all human beings are worthy of dignity and liberty and respect, Piron chose to tell a large swath of the Israeli population—including teachers, students, and parents—that their choices were invalid, unnatural, and wrong. He should apologize immediately. And if his political patron Lapid is truly as committed to gay rights as he declared, he would do well to consider installing someone more worthy of the honor in the ministry of education.