Israeli Education Minister’s Lesbian Sister Comes to His Defense After Anti-Gay Comments
by Dave Bender
The lesbian sister of Israel’s Minister of Education, Shai Piron, on Sunday defended her brother after comments he made last week saying the state should not recognize same-sex marriages, infuriating LGBT leaders.
While stressing that she doesn’t “identify” with what he said, his sister, Hagit Rimon, said “the libel against him” pains her, according to Israel’s Walla News site.
Calling Piron’s statements “a mistake,” Rimon also expressed support for her sibling, who is an ordained orthodox rabbi, and ranks second in Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s secularist Yesh Atid list.
“I wasn’t offended. I don’t get offended by general statements, and I trust his intentions,” Rimon said, stressing that “he does work for many different communities, and he is a pluralistic guy.”
Rimon, who is openly gay, and an attorney, said, “if only more rabbis were like him. He’s a man that does know how to listen to others.”
Last Thursday, Piron told a national religious magazine that “the Jewish state’s right, perhaps its duty, to say to homosexual couples that decide to live their lives that way — ‘this is not a family,’ but economic rights, a mortgage, parental rights, etc. — yes,” according to Israel Hayom.
Piron himself backed off the remarks, saying, “I am grievously convinced that such remarks are contemptible. It is not up to me to decide what is a family and what is not,” according to Channel 10 News.
Piron should “internalize the fact that among the students he is responsible for are children from different families and backgrounds,” the Israel Gay Youth Organization said in a statement, and called for him to “prove his intentions in the education system and society in general.”
But while some LGBT groups are furious over Piron’s statements, others have been muted in their criticism, due to Piron’s acknowledged practical assistance with some of their needs.
“We are witnessing major changes over the last decade in the way society treats homosexuals and lesbians… Rabbi Piron has become one of the greatest leaders of this change,” read a statement by Hevruta, Bat Kol and Shabal, three gay and lesbian support groups.
“You can disagree with my comments,” Piron said in his defense on his Facebook page. “But it reflects the reality of the situation in Israel and the difficulties of the religious community with changes in the family structure,” according to the Times of Israel.
Piron went on to say that “Every day I try to build a bridge between different groups and communities, the first step of the bridge is to accept and understand. I apologize if my words were misunderstood and hurt [anybody].”