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The Jerusalem gay parade debate

by ben June 25 2008
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Gay media attention

It's not a simple issue. Everybody seems to have an opinion when it comes to Jerusalem's annual gay pride parade, scheduled for this Thursday. Is it a struggle between the forces of draconian theocracy vs. those who believe in tolerance? Or does it come down to the idea that whatever people do in their own bedrooms is their own business, but to celebrate it in public is inappropriate?

Okay, the sight of men in high heels and makeup can for sure be jarring for those of us who are more traditional, but the parade isn't about flamboyant spectacle. The fact is, those who oppose the Jerusalem gay pride parade most vocally make it somewhat hard for the enlightened contemporary urban dweller to go along with their opinions. People dressed like they're in 1800s Poland setting fire to dumpsters and calling for the event's relocation to Sodom don't necessarily make the most effective sales force for a mainstream audience – especially when the other side is so fabulously reconciliatory.

A statement from the Jerusalem Open House, the organization that runs the event, boasts:

We have met with many public leaders of the charedi and Orthodox communities to promote understanding and especially to prevent unnecessary violence in the city. The Pride and Tolerance March is a test case for democracy and for the ability to accept 'the other.' We too will be judged by this test....

While the Open House leadership will bend over backwards to remain the good guys in your eyes, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski is going out of his way to make sure he doesn't lose street cred in Geula. He recently wrote in a letter to the High Court:

Past experience shows that the parade greatly offends, deliberately and unnecessarily, the feelings of Jews, Muslims and Christians, who view its sheer existence, and the blatant manner in which it takes place, as a desecration of the holy city and of the values with which they were raised....

In a land known for disproportionate responses, the charedi response to gay pride seems grossly disproportionate – even in the context of traditional Jewish dogma. As controversial post-Chabad Rabbi Shmuley Boteach once put it:

I am an Orthodox Jew, and I do not deny that homosexuality is labeled a sin and an abomination in the Bible. But the word abomination appears 122 times in the Torah, including for such behavior as eating certain non-kosher foods (Deut. 14:3), a wife remarrying her first husband after she has been married to someone else in the interim (24:4), and offering a sacrifice that is blemished (17:1).

Photo of a recent Jerusalem gay pride event by Harry Rubenstein.

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