Israeli religion reporter comes out as gay
What may have been surprising, beyond the content of the announcement itself, was the outpouring of support for Cherki evinced across Israel's political spectrum.
Yair Cherki, the religion reporter for Israel’s Channel 12, became a household name because of his sidecurls, his cheery demeanour and his rapid-fire delivery as he has guided his viewers into the lives and homes of Israel’s Charedi Orthodox community.
Last week, he delivered a different sort of message – a wrenching coming-out statement posted to Facebook.
“I love guys. I love guys and the Holy Blessed One,” a religious term for God, Cherki wrote. “It’s not a contradiction, and it’s not new.”
He went on to describe how he had grappled with a secret that had tormented him.
“I have always lived with the clash between this sexual preference and faith,” he wrote. “There are those who solved the conflict by saying there is no G-d, and there are others who have said there are no gays. In my flesh, I know they both exist and I try to resolve this internal conflict in multiple ways.”
What may have been surprising, beyond the content of the announcement itself, was the outpouring of support for Cherki evinced across Israel’s political spectrum.
“I love you my dear brother,” former Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett, who is Orthodox, wrote on Twitter. “And I am very proud of you.”
Amir Ohana, the openly gay speaker of the Knesset from the Likud Party, responded with a heart emoji.
“This text is so beautiful and moving,” commented Meirav Michaeli, the leader of the left-wing Labor Party. “Thank you for giving it to all of us.”
Also flooding Cherki’s mentions were rivals from Israel’s usually cutthroat media world. “What a joy you are, Cherki,” wrote Shaul Amsterdamski, the finance reporter for the rival Kan network, Israel’s public broadcaster. (Channel 12 is privately owned.)
His public coming-out comes at a time that some far-right figures in Israel’s new government have said they want to curb the rights of LGBTQ Israelis.
Cherki said he would not quit his faith. “My community is still the religious community,” he wrote. “My tribe, my family and my friends. These are my beliefs.”
Not every Israeli was ready to understand, but some still spoke in loving terms.
“This post made me very sad,” commented Yehuda Glick, a former Likud lawmaker who leads a movement to allow Jewish worship on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. “It doesn’t change the fact that I love you not a single gram less than I loved you before I read it. But in total honesty, it’s a gut punch.”
Uriah Elkayam, a journalist, replied to Glick: “These kind of responses from you and your cohort crush souls and drain the lifeblood from people, because you think you are better Jews. This is a time to hug, or to shut up.”
Cherki, 30, generally sports a dark blue kippah and dark casual clothing. He recently cut off his payos, the sidecurls kept by Charedi men.
Cherki made his mark in TV news by taking viewers into the homes of Charedi Jews and asking them – in gentle, urgent tones – to explain why they believed what they believed.
He endeavoured to keep Charedim from being reduced to cliches.
Cherki also speaks to secular Israeli groups about the world of Charedi Jews. “If I had to put in a single sentence what I’m trying to do on TV when I talk about Charedim, I want to say ‘They’re not all the same,'” he told a bar full of secular Israelis last month on a TV show that brings together different sectors of Israel’s deeply divided society.