Marriage is love.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

March for Pride and Jerusalem

KK Kol Haneshama, Jerusalem, Israel
The Jerusalem Post

As I marched with my family in the gay pride parade last week, I was amazed at what a uniquely Jerusalem-style event it was.

In other cities around the world, gay pride parades seem like an opportunity for the gay community to create a safe public space for itself and to act out some of its more bizarre fantasies. The Jerusalem parade had very little of that. Our parade had lots of ordinary Jerusalemites (not known for flamboyant dress in general) imaging a Jerusalem united by mutual respect, tolerance and openness.

For many it was the first time joining in the parade. Many of the marchers were straight, brought out by the behavior of Mayor Uri Lupolianski and other Orthodox politicians. Lupolianski's attempt to prevent the march and his abusive attack on the gay and lesbian community redefined the purpose of the parade.

The annual gay pride parade has become one of those rare events that transcends the narrow boundaries of a specific issue (the rights of gays and lesbians in this case) and symbolizes broader, more universal issues. It has become a struggle over our understanding of democracy.

Deputy Mayor Yigal Amedi (a secular politician) supported banning the parade on the grounds that it would offend many residents of the city. Civics 101 teaches that democracy is not only based on majority rules. Democracy is also about protecting and cherishing minorities. If that were limited to minorities that we liked or agreed with, it wouldn't be much of a democracy. The glory of true democracies is that they recognize the importance of supporting unpopular ideas and groups.

As in years past the parade was marred by the despicable behavior of the protesters hurling verbal abuse and bags of human excrement and urine. This year, however, the violence escalated and three people were stabbed by a haredi protester.

The stage was set for this outrageous attack months ago. In one of the lowest expressions of interfaith cooperation, leading clergy from the three monotheistic religions, led by right-wing Christians, organized a public press conference condemning the [international] gay pride events (which have since been postponed due to the disengagement in August).

Palestinian Christians have no love for Christian Zionist evangelicals and neither are particularly embraced by most Orthodox rabbis. This region has been starved for models of interfaith cooperation to free us from the cycle of violence and revenge. On those issues these religious leaders cannot work together. Pathetically, they succeeded in finding a common voice in order to attack gays and lesbians who wanted to come to celebrate in Jerusalem. I consider that a "hilul hashem" – a desecration of the divine name.

Mayor Lupolianski's demonization of the gay and lesbian community created the climate that empowered the evil man who wounded the marchers. Opponents of the march will probably blame the victim, as is so often the case. The mayor must be held responsible for his dangerous statements and malicious behavior. Residents of Jerusalem must demand that Jerusalem remain both a holy and a democratic city.

The prophet Zechariah (chapter eight) calls on us to imagine the squares of Jerusalem filled with old men and women, boys and girls playing together.

The prophet adds (8:12), "Do not contrive evil against one another; Those are the things I hate, declares the Lord."

If we wish to live to see Zechariah's prophecy come true we have to resolve to fight evil by speaking lovingly and respectfully – especially when we disagree.

© 1995 - 2005 The Jerusalem Post. All rights reserved.