The town Beit Shemesh

The town of Beit Shemesh

A newly-elected Israeli mayor has thanked God that there are no gay people in his “holy and pure” town, reports The Times of Israel.

In a television interview on Friday, Moshe Abutbul – who won the post of mayor of Beit Shemesh in October elections – told Channel 10 that when it came to gay people: “We have no such things… Thank God this city is holy and pure”.

Abutbul went on to say that he “was not involved” in the issue of homosexuals and somewhat ominously called on the Health Ministry and the police to “take care of them”.

The insert included a gay man from Beit Shemesh who informed viewers that there are actually quite a few LGBT people in the town.

The mayor also went on to explain why there are no women in his Shas party list, asserting that women simply prefer to stay home to “raise and educate their children…”

Beit Shemesh is a city of around 75,000 people west of Jerusalem, which has seen a growing divide between ultra-Orthodox and more liberal residents.

Elinor Sidi, director of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, told Ynetnews: “As one who was born and raised in Beit Shemesh, I can only lament the transformation the city has undergone in the past couple of years. Xenophobia, ignorance, homophobia and racism have replaced the warming of hearts which once characterized Beit Shemesh.”

The Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgendered in Israel has filed a complaint against the mayor, stating that Abutbul’s comments constitute “incitement, urging attacks on and a show of contempt for the LGBT community.”

The furore has also led to international outrage, with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, whose city shares a sister-city relationship with Beit Shemesh, writing an open letter to the mayor.

“We are outraged by your comments recently on Channel 10, in which you said there are no homosexuals in your ‘holy and pure’ city.

“Mr. Mayor, gays and lesbians are neither sick nor criminal. Your comments hurt and offend many in your community, in Israel and in the Diaspora, and we urge you to immediately retract them.”

Meanwhile, it’s emerged that Abutbul’s foe in the elections is challenging the results in court, accusing the mayor of election day forgery.

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