Israel's Education Minister Says 'Normative Family' Is Made Up of Man and Woman

Rafi Peretz, an Orthodox rabbi, caused controversy with his homophobic remarks, which came a year after he spoke out in favor of conversion therapy

Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Rafi Peretz speaks after exit poll results are announced at the end of Israel's election, September 17, 2019.
David Bachar

Israel's Education Minister Rafi Peretz came under fire over the weekend for remarks he made in an interview for Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth in which he attacked the LGBTQ community. 

Asked how he would respond had one of his children identified as gay, Peretz said that he raised them "in a natural and healthy way," and for that reason they don't have a "different" sexual orientation and are "building their homes based on Jewish values."

The education minister, who is an Orthodox rabbi and the head of the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party, also noted that "a man and a woman" are the definition for a "normative family." Asked whether gender reassignment was possible, he answered that "this is the kind of question that necessitates a lot of discussion. I can't provide a laconic answer." 

On Saturday, Justice Minister Amir Ohana (Likud), who is Israel's first openly gay minister, said that Peretz's remarks were "miserable, dark and wrong." His words "are not based on knowledge and facts, but rather on prejudice," Ohana charged. 

The municipalities of Tel Aviv and the adjacent city of Givatayim announced that schools would open Sunday with a conversation with students about Peretz's statements. The Tel Aviv municipality added that classrooms throughout the city will hold discussions about the possibility of different kinds of families.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai released a statement attacking Peretz for "thinking he has a rubber stamp from the heavens to determine what is natural and what is normative." He said he will not remain silent and will for fight for the values of a democratic society. 

This is not the first time Peretz has voiced controversial remarks targeting the gay community. Last year, upon his appointment as education minister, he told Israel's Channel 12 News that it was "possible to convert" homosexual and lesbian individuals, claiming that he had facilitated such therapy in the past.

Asked what kind of advice he gave a student of his who confided in him about his sexual orientation, Peretz said: "First of all, I hugged him and told him kind things: Let's think, let's learn and observe together. The purpose is first and foremost for him to get to know himself well. I give him the information, and he decides." 

His words sparked a firestorm in Israel, causing the chairman of the country's psychiatrists' association to issue a warning that conversion therapy is dangerous and can cause subjects to commit suicide.