Orthodox lesbian who rejects Jerusalem pride plans to run for Israeli parliament

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Orthodox lesbian, Lisa Liel, is standing for Israeli parliament. Her candidacy is on behalf of a new right-wing party, Zehut.

Zehut was formed by Moshe Feiglin, a former member of of the Likud party who wrote an article ten years ago in which he declared himself “a proud homophobe.”

Now, as head of Zehut, Feiglin told The Jerusalem Post that he “doesn’t check who people sleep with” and has welcomed Liel to the party. She is running in Tuesday’s Zehut primary.

She is a Chicago-raised immigrant who moved to Israel in 2015. She would be the first openly lesbian member elected to the Knesset, besides Marcia Friedman came out after completing one term in 1977.

Liel, 54, has been with her partner for 19 years, with whom she has a daughter. Though she has stated that she does not consider herself a gay activist and has opposed Jerusalem gay pride parade from the start.“Being gay is part of who I am, just like having brown hair and brown eyes,” Liel said.

Liel was inspired to become more religious by the late Rabbi Meir Kahana who had also spoken out against Jerusalem pride.

Liel’s partner is also Orthodox and has said she sees it as “less and less of a challenge over the years.”

When asked why she wants to be a politician, Liel said: “There are things that need to be done. I spend a lot of time complaining about what the government does, and I realized that complaining wasn’t very productive, and if I wanted changes, I would have to do them myself.”

Liel mentions that she’s suitable for the role because of her programming background. “I’m a problem solver,” she said. “It’s what I do. I design programming systems from the ground up. It all has to fit together. The same is true of the country. You can’t deal with one small area. One part fits with another part.”

She adds that she wants to restore a sense of ownership of the Knesset to the public.

“The Knesset and the government need to stop looking at themselves as rulers,” she said. “They don’t see themselves as beholden to the citizenry. I want to create a customer service department. The citizens of Israel should be sovereign.”

Though the head of her party, Feiglin cancelled a meeting with the gay community in March 2013 after receiving complaints, he has a close friendship with gay Israeli MP Amir Ohana.

Liel is hopeful about her party’s prospect of winning elections.

“We’re going to be the surprise of the election,” she said. “We haven’t even started campaigning and polls say people want to vote for us.”

Zehut’s 2600 members will select 15 candidates among the 25 running to become members of the Knesset.