Members of the religious sector in Petah Tivka are trying to quash a municipality decision to hire avowed homosexual singer Ivri Lider to perform on the city's central stage during Independence Day performances, as part of a team with the singer Rita.
Sources in the municipality who represent the religious sector, most of them members of Mayor Yitzhak (Itzik) Ohayon's coalition, said that they oppose such a performance. They also claimed to have had no idea that Lider was slated as an option for the main event of the festivities.
Local council member Benny Zehavi attacked the mayor's policies, noting that "the first person to bring statues to Petah Tivka was Itzik Ohayon… He's the one who changed the status quo, and the decision to bring a homosexual to sing on Independence Day demonstrates the liberalism in his leadership, and the disrespect for the religious residents.
"I am announcing that such a thing will not take place in our city, regardless of religion or lack of it," said Zahavi's number two, Rabbi Avraham Sabag.
"This crosses too many boundaries," he said, noting that all of the city's founders had been religious. "I will bring up the issue in the next council meeting and demand the performance be canceled," he said.
"Ivri Lider is the last one who can represent this holiday," Sabag said. "It's inconceivable that such a performance will take place in the city. This is Independence Day, not licentiousness day."
'Independence Day belongs to everyone'Two representatives from the Renewed National-Religious Party tried to demonstrate relative tolerance for the choice, if not for the performance itself.
"I don't check an artist's prayer garments. I decide for myself whether to go or not to go," said the faction's Moti Zefet. But, he added, "It's unfortunate that a decision was made to bring this particular artist, which will prevent many people from enjoying the festivities on the central stage."
Avi Blumstein concurred, saying, "If it were up to me, I would have been sensitive to this issue. Now that the decision has been made, people will need to find the right place for them in the festivities. But I'm surprised no one thought about the sensitivity of this issue."
Council member Itzik Ovadia also agreed, noting that "people should have been considerate of the religious sector, which constitutes 40% of the city's population. Independence Day is for everyone and it is appropriate to choose an artist that suits everyone."
Local Shas representative Asher Shoker stated that the issue goes beyond a lack of sensitivity, calling it "a public provocation" and maintaining that "if the issue had been brought to a council vote, there's no way it would have passed."
'Inappropriate in a progressive society'Roni Arditi, Lider's manager, said in response: "It's sad to hear, year after year, in different municipalities, these types of medieval statements that are inappropriate in a progressive and enlightened society."
"Ivri Lider is one of the leading and important Israeli artists. His contribution to Israeli culture and music is immeasurable. It's too bad a sector of the population is unable to respect, accept and appreciate people with a different lifestyle," she said.
"Just as the religious sector wishes to be accepted as it is, it's time they learned to accept all others as they are. I believe that the Petach Tikva municipality will honor the contract and let the music speak for itself," she added.
Hezi Hakak, the municipality's spokesman, said in response that "Ivri Lider is one of the leading and adored artists in the country and we've received many positive responses to this choice."
"These types of responses belong in a backwards country. Most of the religious people I know are tolerant and respect people for who they are. We are all looking forward to his performance on Independence Day."