Israel gay pride
Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv, 2012. Photo by Hadar Cohen
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Tomer Appelbaum
Ra'anana Mayor Nahum Hofree is being urged to dismiss the city's chief rabbi over homophobic remarks Photo by Tomer Appelbaum

A Ra'anana city council member is calling on Mayor Nahum Hofree to dismiss the city's chief rabbi for saying participants in the gay pride rally held Friday were "forcing improper and twisted norms on the public."

Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz, a former Shas minister, made the comments in a letter distributed to Ra'anana synagogues before the rally.

"It's not enough that they're not ashamed of their deeds, which undermine the basis of human ethics, but they even take pride in them ... thereby poisoning the public atmosphere and negatively influencing our cherished youth," wrote Peretz.

If drug addicts were to stage their own pride parade, he added, "would everyone then greet them out of a sense of openness, tolerance and pluralism?"

The municipality said in a statement that it would consider asking Peretz to clarify his comments.

But city council member Shai Even, of the Meretz party, wants the city to go further than that.

"Someone who insults communities in the city like that is not fit to hold a public position, and I expect the mayor, who was also at the event, to condemn Peretz and show him the door," said Even.

Elad Wolf, the social network coordinator for Israel Hofshit, an advocacy group supporting pluralism and freedom of religion, said the fact that Peretz receives a public salary indicates that something is rotten in the city of Ra'anana.

"The statements of someone who benefits from a salary paid by the taxpayer prove that rot is continuing to permeate the city that used to be a symbol of pluralism," said Wolf. "Below the surface there are radical and unenlightened groups attempting to conceal the existence of communities and populations in the city in the name of primitiveness."

Hofree bowed to criticism last month and canceled the planned gay pride parade, replacing it with a smaller-scale rally that took place in a department store parking lot. He said he believes in "coexistence and tolerance between the various groups living and operating in Ra'anana" and opposes "any statement that is liable to insult any of them."

Baruch Oren, who heads Shisha Tzvaim, the group that organized the pride event, said Peretz's letter was filled with "ignorance and hatred" - an attitude that he said makes some people feel compelled "to hide in the closet."