A homosexual's voice equals lewdness? Rabbis, right-wing activists and National Service girls are protesting a decision to invite singer a gay to perform at an event honoring Israel's National-Civilian Service volunteers. Some of them are even threatening to boycott the event. According to the protestors, the majority of the event's participants are religious girls, who are certain to be offended by having to listen to an open homosexual sing.
Rabbis protest gay singer's gig
Religious leaders, right-wing activists and National Service girls slam decision to invite Harel Skaat, an open homosexual, to sing at event honoring volunteers. 'It's disrespectful to the girls,' rabbi says
Kobi Nahshoni • Ynet
Homosexual's voice equals lewdness? Ynet has learned that rabbis, right-wing activists and National Service girls are protesting a decision to invite singer Harel Skaat to perform at an event honoring National-Civilian Service volunteers. Some of them are even threatening to boycott the event.
According to the protestors, the majority of the event's participants are religious girls, who are certain to be offended by having to listen to an open homosexual sing.
Information obtained by Ynet reveals that a group of National Service girls complained to the National-Civilian Service Administration in recent days that "an artist who does not fit the event's nature" has been invited to the ceremony. They even noted that they might not attend the event.
Although the threats do not appear to be part of an organized boycott, the girls have received the backing of some rabbis in the Religious Zionism movement, who view Skaat's invitation as insensitive as well.
The event will be held on Tuesday at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, and will be attended by ministers, Knesset members and public figures.
Eight outstanding National-Civilian Service volunteers will receive merit certificates during the event, which will conclude with a performance by Harel Skaat, who was chosen in light of his popularity.
'Ceremony's nature damaged'
Kiryat Shmona Rabbi Zephaniah Drori, chairman of the Agudah Lehitnadvut ("The Association for Volunteering" - one of the biggest National Service contracting organizations) told religious culture magazine "Motzash": "It's clear that this isn't a pleasant thing, and it's certainly disrespectful to the National Service girls."
He said the girls who had spoken to him expressed "a lot of resentment".
A senior Religious Zionism rabbi complained to Ynet that the Administration failed to consult him and his colleagues about the performance.
"After all, this is about our girls, not theirs," he said. "It is my understanding that this performance is inappropriate and will damage the nature of the ceremony."
Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) sent a letter on the matter to Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, whose office is in charge of the National-Civilian Service Administration. He noted that he was amazed to hear that Skaat was selected to sing.
According to Ben-Ari, religious and haredi girls serving in the National Service turned told him that "Harel Skaat's personal lifestyle, which is expressed on every stage, contradicts their world of values, and inviting him to an event in their honor offends them."
The lawmaker added in his letter to the minister that the invitation – even if done without his knowledge – seems like "someone's idea of a provocation", and called on him to "make things right" or at least "balance the situation" by inviting another non-controversial artist.
"If it were a minister from the leftist side of the map, who had realized that the singer performing at his event expresses in his personal life a completely different ideological world than the minister and his guests, he would have thwarted it," Ben-Ari argued.
Just to say thank you
The National-Civilian Service Administration issued the following statement in response: "A committee appointed to prepare the annual event determined the nature and content of the event, after being instructed by Director Sar-Shalom Jarbi to select an artist who served in the army or National Service and prevent a situation in which a woman's voice would offend the haredi volunteers."
The statement added that the Administration was making many efforts to properly meet the needs and worldviews of all volunteers, and that the state ceremony was meant to reflect the wide combination of National-Civilian Service volunteers and the society in Israel.
"We must focus on the main thing, which is saluting and thanking thousands of devoted volunteers working for the community and society, and not mixing personal opinions in a national event."
A source in the Administration told Ynet that the decision on which artists would perform followed a survey among the men and women serving in the National Service, in order to find out who their favorite artist is – and it turned out that Skaat is the most popular.
Some of the respondents even mentioned his name themselves, rather than picking it out from a list presented to them.
Minister Hershkowitz told Ynet in response, "This is a state event saluting National-Civilian Service volunteers from all sectors of the population. What stood before our eyes was the halachic consideration of women's singing and the national consideration of full IDF service."
Jonathan Ger, director of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, said in response, "I support the National Service Administration for standing behind its selection of Harel Skaat despite the criticism. I'm also happy to see that the boys and girls of the National Service are more liberal than their rabbis."
A source close to the singer responded by saying, "Harel Skaat performs before all types of audiences, including religious and haredi. Just a few days ago he was invited by Rabbi Firer to perform at a gala event. Harel is happy to perform before outstanding National Service volunteers, and not for the first time."