Jerusalem Municipality Orders Removal of Anti-gay Billboards

Organization invoking 'courage to be normal' attempted to 'urgently' appeal the order, but ended up with court fines

A sign by the conservative group Hazon in Jerusalem, reading "Father and mother = family. The courage to be normal." June 5, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

The Jerusalem municipality ordered the removal Tuesday night of posters hung throughout the city opposing the gay pride parade, on the grounds that they are hurtful to the public.

The posters, which were hung on dozens of municipal billboards at the start of the week, read “Father and mother = family. The courage to be normal." The posters were hung ahead of Jerusalem's annual LGBT pride parade, scheduled for Thursday.

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The head of the city’s department for public advertising, Hagar Achdut, announced on Tuesday night that the decision to take down the posters stemmed from the many complaints the municipality had fielded on the matter. “The content of the campaign in question could hurt the feelings of some members of the public living in Jerusalem, so I am ordering all the ads to be removed within six hours as of receiving this notice,” she wrote.

Behind the posters is Hazon, a conservative group with ties to the religious Zionist movement and its rabbis. According to its members, it works to bolster Jewish and family values. An April Haaretz investigation revealed that Hazon, part of the larger nonprofit Gevanim, was also behind anti-miscegenation and anti-Reform billboards in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem before the last round of elections. The group bought ad space for the same anti-gay message on a Jerusalem hotel, and even on the front page of Haaretz, for which publisher Amos Schocken apologized.

On Wednesday morning, the High Court of Justice rejected an urgent motion by Hazon to repeal Achdut’s directive. Hazon argued that its campaign is “a positive one, designed to advance accepted, basic family values." The group added, "It seems that in these times, it takes courage to voice this accepted position.” They claimed that the city was hurting the public's feelings even more by agreeing to allow rainbow flags to hang throughout the city.

Justice Yitzhak Amit rejected Hazon's motion, criticizing the claim's "urgency" and the fact that it cost him sleep: “The petition and the motion before me were submitted around 1 A.M., after the representative of the petitioner pounded on the door of the Supreme Court and insisted that he had a critical petition for an injunction and request to hold an urgent hearing.”

The petition granted the justice the ability to say his morning prayers early, he joked, saying that it "removed the bands of sleep from my eyes and slumber from my eyelids," quoting a verse. And because the group had failed to follow proper channels before turning to the court, Amit ruled that Hazon be fined 2,500 shekels (nearly $700) in court fines, payable to the state.

Last week, the Jerusalem city council approved an annual budget for the Open House association, which serves Jerusalem's LGBTQ community, after the city's mostly ultra-Orthodox finance council refused to provide funding. Before the city council vote, in keeping with an agreement with Mayor Moshe Leon, the ultra-Orthodox council members left the chamber, and did not participate in the vote.