2006-11-01

Against the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade

UPDATE: I've revised my views on this issue. Please read Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade Reconsidered.

Original post follows:

I'll keep this short and to the point. I'm in favor of fairness and equality for lesbian, gay, and transgender people, and I believe queer folk have every right to be visible, both individually and as a community. But I'm against the planned Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem. Here's why.

Jerusalem is not only the capital of the State of Israel; it is also the single holiest city in the Jewish world. It is home to thousands of devoutly religious Jews, whose faith forbids homosexuality. I wish there were more understanding in the Orthodox Jewish world toward lesbian, gay, and differently gendered people; and I wish there were more understanding in the queer community of what it is that traditional Jews believe. But that's not the reality in the world right now.

The reality is that a gay pride parade in Jerusalem is a confrontational, provocative gesture. It will do nothing to improve the attitude of straight Israelis toward gay people. It will only provide opportunities for religious fanatics to cause trouble.

The argument has been made by gay advocates that "in a (liberal) city like San Francisco or New York or Tel Aviv we don't need a gay pride parade - it's in places where there's not so much acceptance that it is needed." I agree with this in principle, but I don't agree with the application.

This reasoning presumes that a Gay Pride parade is what is "needed". I don't agree with that premise. Parades may have their place, but what matters is what actually works. And what works is the slow, steady, and unglamorous work of reaching out to the straight world on a daily basis.

I know from personal experience that the documentary "Trembling Before G-d" had a strong impact on the religious Jewish world, both from the effect of the film itself and from the individuals who were inspired to "come out" because of the film. I also know of young people in the queer community (who could by no stretch of the imagination be called "gay conservatives") who feel that gay parades with half-naked men and women walking down the street are both tasteless and counterproductive.

Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem? To celebrate what? Something that does not yet exist - understanding between the traditionally religious world and the gay world. Such a parade, it seems to me, would only alienate potential allies among the moderates in the straight world, and give the anti-gay fanatics more attention than they deserve.

Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem? No. Wrong place, wrong time, bad idea.

Here's a roundup of news coverage:

Gay.com:
A riot erupted Tuesday night in Jerusalem as hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews marched to protest a planned Pride march later this month.

Members of the Haredi sect created a massive uproar, blocking roads, setting trash cans on fire, and throwing rocks at police officers. Protestors were led by leaders wearing sack cloths, a Biblical sign of bereavement, and carrying placards slamming homosexuality that said "Jerusalem will not be like Sodom and Gomorrah."

Arutz Sheva:
Labor Party presidential candidate Colette Avital has called on Open House officials to find another location for next week’s Gay Pride Parade.

Avital stated that it is obvious that holding the parade in Jerusalem will result in violence and moving it to another city can prevent confrontation. She stated everything possible must be done to avoid violence.

Edge New York:
Ultra-Orthodox Jews, or Haredim, in Jerusalem are threatening to strike a Gay Pride parade scheduled to take place in Jerusalem in two weeks, prompting police to reevaluate the permit issued to parade organizers.

Ynet News reports that most recently, Jerusalem Police Chief Maj. Gen. Ilan Franko met Sunday with Haredi leader Yitzhak Tuvia Weiss.

According to Ynet News, Franko asked to learn about the stance of Haredi rabbis who declared their intent of a ’Million Man Protest’ against the parade.

Arutz Sheva:
The police announced last night (Tuesday) that they were planning to deploy in top-level strength for the event - a declaration perceived by some to be a salvo in the public-opinion war over whether or not to allow the march. One internal police source said the announcement was publicized merely to stir up anti-march sentiment; official police sources denied this.

Hareidi-religious affairs commentator Yossi Elituv said, "The fight against the march has knocked down all barriers in the hareidi and religious camps. The Hassidic sectors - Belz, Gerrer, and others - together with Litaim (non-Hassidic), as well as the Sephardi-hareidim and the religious-Zionist sectors - all are standing together against this parade."

And finally, because I can't resist, one last comment: The gay community wants to "push the limits" in Israel because it knows Israel is a tolerant, liberal, Jewish state. It is, if you'll pardon the expression, the low-hanging fruit.

You want to really accomplish something?

Let me know when you're having that Gay Pride parade in Mecca.