Ultra-Orthodox councilmen stormed out of a Tel Aviv city council meeting Monday in response to a suggestion to begin teaching classes against homophobia in the city's schools.
Councilman Binyamin Babayoff, of the Shas faction, said the municipality-backed initiative contained "lewd and evil content".
Hoshen, an organization that teaches kids about the dangers of homophobia, has so far given lessons only in Tel Aviv schools willing to accept its message. Many schools were unreceptive, however, prompting Councilman Yaniv Weizman, the mayor's adviser on gay affairs, to make the suggestion.
Mayor Ron Huldai also backs the plan, which is scheduled to be reviewed by municipality officials soon in order to implement it.
"There is no other authority which funds the gay community like Tel Aviv Municipality," Huldai said in an interview. "I have never forced schools to teach certain programs, and we will transfer this plan to the education committee for review."
During the debate on the plan Weizman mentioned the murderous attack that occurred at a gay youth center in the city, and added that "one of the most popular insults in schools, even in 2010, is 'homo'".
He said just four Tel Aviv schools (or 5%) had agreed to Hoshen's proposal to teach a class on homophobia. "The municipality must implement Hoshen's lesson plan in the general curriculum. Tel Aviv must be a leader of this change and a pioneer," Weizman added.
The debate concluded with a unanimous decision to formulate a special plan on the subject, "with the aspiration of starting in 2011". Deputy Mayor Asaf Zamir said that "equality, tolerance, and the acceptance of the other are values that should be included in the curriculums of all of the city's schools".
But not everyone was happy, and three religious councilmen walked out on the debate. "It is shameful to force schools to teach lewd and evil content to all of the city's students, secular and religious," Babayoff said.
"It is a total smashing of the status-quo, and will not go over peacefully. Just days after the shame parade, this move proves Tel Aviv is on its way to becoming Sodom and Gomorrah."