King David gay? Israelis scandalized

February 11, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

JERUSALEM -- Debate in the Israeli parliament, rarely decorous these days, turned into bedlam yesterday when a liberal member, arguing for equal rights for gays and lesbians in the army, suggested that ancient Israel's greatest king, David, was a homosexual -- and quoted the Bible to try to prove it.

Mourning the death of Jonathan in a battle with the Philistines, David calls him "most dear to me" and says: "Your love for me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women."

But even as Yael Dayan, one of the Labor Party's iconoclasts, began quoting from David's famous lament in the Second Book of Samuel, Shaul Yahalom of the National Religious Party shouted at her and other liberals: "All of you are sick! All of you should be hospitalized!"

The ensuing tumult surpassed even the angry denunciations of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that have become the regular fare at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Religious members from all parties called on Mr. Rabin and the Knesset speaker to punish Ms. Dayan.

Shas -- the religious party that joined the Labor government, bringing it six vital votes and helping cover its right flank politically -- by nightfall was threatening to quit the Cabinet over the affair.

"We will blow up this leftist coalition," declared Rabbi Yosef Arzan, a Shas leader.

Ms. Dayan, 53, daughter of the late Gen. Moshe Dayan, had called in the debate for an end to discrimination in the Israeli armed forces against gays and lesbians.

She argued that, despite religious prohibitions and community traditions, many Jewish leaders over the centuries were, in fact, homosexual and actively so.

Challenged as she started to read David's lament over Jonathan, Ms. Dayan replied: "I am reading this directly from the source."

Almost unable to speak because of his anger, Rabbi Arzan accused Ms. Dayan of blasphemy in suggesting that the love between David and Jonathan, idealized for centuries as pure and selfless, was actually homosexual.

"A man who lies with a man as if a woman will be cursed and cut off from the people of Israel," Rabbi Maiya intoned, quoting what religious Jews take as a biblical injunction against homosexuality.

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