When asked in the interview that aired Friday whether the city has gay residents, the recently re-elected ultra-Orthodox Mayor Abutbul replied: "We have no such thing. If you mean what I think you mean – then no. Thank God, this city is holy and pure."
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He then said that if there were gay Beit Shemesh residents, they should be handled by the Health Ministry and the police. The interview caused uproar among many current and former Beit Shemesh residents.
Minister Sa'ar addressed Abutbul's remarks in a conference of municipal representatives, to whom he said: "As heads of municipalities you are public leaders. You were chosen by the public. That requires a responsible conduct in both action and speech.
"You are the representatives of the residents of your communities – of those who elected you and of those who didn't."
Meanwhile, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington Steven Rakitt delivered a letter to Mayor Abutbul, stating that the federation is appalled by his remarks and stressed that it welcomed people of all backgrounds, sexual orientations and religious beliefs. Rakitt heads the federation of Washington, which is a twin city of Beit Shemesh.
Abutbul said in response:"My remarks in the Channel 10 interview were taken out of context and addressed the issue of pedophilia and pedophiles – a condemned phenomenon within the Israeli society and any cultural country.
"I head a city in which many communities reside; I know each and every one of them and I see myself as a mayor of all. I regret that political sources, local and interest-oriented, that do not accept the decision of the voters in the elections, are trying to escalate this misunderstanding and turn it into a weapon."
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