By Shmuel Katz
In the past three days, our country has seen two different annual events that have critical importance to their adherents. These events saw dramatic turnouts and were termed inspiring by those who supported them. They made news throughout the country and perhaps even the world. And they demonstrate the stark differences between the Right and the Left here in Israel.
Last erev Shabbat, Tel-Aviv played host to its annual “gay pride” parade, the centerpiece event for the LGBT community here in Israel. Portrayed as the largest event of its kind in the region, up to 200,000 Israelis and tourists may have participated in this year’s parade. It makes sense that it is the largest such parade, as practically all of our neighbors would either lock up or kill anyone showing up for a similar event in their country.
The parade went off pretty calmly. There were a couple of minor confrontations, but for the most part, those who wanted to be there went and those who did not want to see it stayed home. Which is the way it is supposed to be; Israel is the only true democracy in the region and Israel is the only country where people can freely be who they want to be. For the most part.
I don’t have a problem with the parade per se. I know that many of the people reading this paper will shudder at the thought, and I understand that homosexual behavior is against the Torah. Yet this issue seems to bother us much more than other sins. And I am disappointed in Orthodoxy as a whole with regard to its handling of sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular. The Orthodox community has failed these people. We have not come up with a way to deal with this issue.
We are talking about people’s children. People who want to be included. And we (and I am no better than anyone else here) have no idea or plan of how to make their lives workable and include them within Orthodoxy.
We’ve somehow found ways to include other sinners. Thieves. Liars. Cheats. Adulterers. Molesters. Rapists. We might not be making parades for them. But we’ll give them kibbudim in shul and happily take their money and honor them at fundraisers. I’m not saying that such treatment is right. But we do it. Although we may slowly be changing this approach, we’ve historically not only found ways to include them within the community, we’ve even gone to incredible lengths to protect such people from the justice systems of their own countries.
But we can’t manage to do that for the gays. I have former talmidim who are gay. A former colleague who has come out. One of my children has a friend who came out. Every one of them is someone’s child, brother, or sister. They want to feel “normal.” And they have their parade (which is definitely an “in your face” type of gesture—but this one was in Tel-Aviv, where most of the people have no problem with it).
I wish there were a way for us to deal with this issue. But that is not even the reason for this column. A couple of days following that parade in Tel-Aviv, thousands upon thousands of people—including our son—marched through the streets of Yerushalayim and the Old City, including the Muslim Quarter—in celebration of Israel’s recapture of the Old City of Yerushalayim in 1967. This annual event is a highlight for the right-wing communities, especially the Religious Zionist communities.
You may not know that there were left-wing advocates who attempted to redirect the route of the Yom Yerushalayim parade away from the Muslim Quarter (the entry through the Muslim Quarter was permitted, but limited to one hour only). The main argument for those who opposed the march was that running the parade through the Muslim Quarter is a “rub their noses in it” type of move, intended to ridicule the Arab population—especially since they are confined to their homes during the parade to prevent confrontations.
For our part, we had a discussion with our son about what he is permitted to do and say. We made sure he understood that he had to maintain a positive focus about having what has been the capital city of the Jewish homeland for thousands of years back in our hands.
And the parade seems to have gone off pretty much without incident. There were reported to be (just like in the week before) isolated incidents of hate speech and attempts to inflame things. But they are not being reported as anything significant (and if they were anything at all, the liberal press here would have pounced on it).
But here is my point. In a couple of months, there will be another gay-pride parade. This one will be in Yerushalayim. Last year’s parade saw a deranged Jew attack parade-goers, killing a young woman. I would therefore think that this year’s event will see a huge “in your face” type of turnout, for the sake of demonstrating to the “crazies” (read religious/chareidi people) that they are powerless to stand in the way of this parade and this lifestyle.
And I am wondering if those same liberals who so righteously attacked the Yom Yerushalayim Parade of Flags as being a source of instigation and inflammation of tensions will take the same tone when discussing the Jerusalem gay-pride parade later this year. Will they petition for the cancellation of the event as inflammatory and insensitive to the beliefs of the local population? I think not.
On the flip side, I would also surmise that the same flip-flop will be happening amongst the supporters of the Yom Yerushalayim parade. They will change from the chorus of “it’s our right to have free speech and celebrate our beliefs” and instead sing the tune of “how can we possibly permit such incendiary and deliberately provocative speech?”
It is a strange juxtaposition we witness over and over again here in Israel. Our attitudes and motivations are so polarized that we seem to run from one extreme to the other quite easily. Perhaps too easily and without enough thought.
I’ll close with the invitation to personally help you with your korbanot this coming Chag HaShavuot. My family and all the kohanic families look forward to assisting in all the different needs you and all Klal Yisrael may have in the newly rebuilt Bet HaMikdash.
If for some reason the geulah has not yet come, we wish you a terrific (three-day, oy) chag and a hope that we truly merit to stop having the one-day/two-day argument and start enjoying the chagim and every day in the way we are intended to—in a rebuilt Bet HaMikdash and a Yerushalayim rededicated solely to the purpose of being the true capital of Eretz Yisrael. v
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org), a new gap-year yeshiva. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.