Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Gay Pride Parade and Haredi Violence

We are now witnessing the fourth night of Haredi riots in Jerusalem in anticipation of the Gay Pride Parade this week in Jerusalem. The popular opinion is that the Haredim are trying to stop the parade by force. That if they show how much violence the parade sparks, that the police will decide that they cannot control the parade and will call the entire thing off. (Ynet has a video here.)

I am extremely worried about this situation, and here are some points to think about:

1. There has been talk about people getting killed at the Parade if it goes ahead. Last time, a couple of people were stabbed by a protester. Now, we have 4 days of violence. Where is the justification to threaten innocent people, to attack police, to burn public property, in our tradition?

2. I am against any violence that aims to threaten the public order to the degree that the forces of law buckle and give in. I felt that with demonstrations against the disengagement and I feel it here. One can demonstrate , but legally. The Haredi demonstration some years ago against the Supreme Court was legal , massive and influential. Force of Law here in Israel is weak enough and unfortunately weakening by the day. How can a legal march be cancelled because people threaten it? We cannot – as a society - allow violence to dictate our national life. If we do, then איש את ראהו חיים בלעו. It will be a terrible precedent if public violence wins the day. (I say this on the weekend when Rabin's assassination is being commemorated. Another instance where we suffered from the attitude that violent unlawful actions can alter the course of the nation. And precisely that should be a warning for us.)

3. Another worrying phenomenon is that this violence is now pushing the issue of Religious-liberal tensions back into the public arena and also the tension between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. See this picture of graffiti from a Tel Aviv shul this week. (The Graffitti says: If we won't march in Jerusalem, then you will not be able to walk through Tel Aviv.)

It has been quite a while since there was a flare of Haredi-Secular tension. It has ONLY bad side-effects. There are ways to solve things in more peaceable and harmonious manner. (Unless people have an interest in there being violence?)

4. On the other hand, I do feel that the Open House who organise the Jerusalem march are creating an unnecessary provocation. (Maybe this is part of the problem. Some people are interested in having things escalate and hit the headlines!) Every year there is a large Gay parade in Tel Aviv. As this article in Jpost states, life for Gays in Jerusalem is good. But Jerusalem is predominantly a religious city (Jews, Moslems and Christians.) Is there a need to take the Gay issue and "in your face" everyone with it? That is the same reason that in general I am not enthusiastic of Gay parades. I don't like taking our sexuality (Homo or Hetro) into the public arena. And in Jerusalem it seems way over the edge. The Open House have an agenda to push Homosexuality into the mainstream. Most Jerusalemites want to live and let live but they do not welcome this.

5. And again in the balancing act, we don't need an a anti-Gay backlash. Even from a Torah perspective. Obviously, the Torah precludes Homosexuality. At the same time, many people feel an innate desire to engage in Homosexual behaviour. Yes; From a Torah perspective we are against Homosexuality and that is clear. At teh same time we can sympathise with the difficulties and personal emotional torment of a religious individual who is suffering as a result of his struggle with his Homosexual inclinations. All of this is besides the point of this discussion. That can all hold without the parade and without the violence (or with the parade and no violence!) ( Having said that, I do note some irony in the fact that this is all happening on the week of Parashat Vayera with its depiction of Sedom and its destruction. A few weeks back when the topic of the Parade came up in Knesset, one of the Arab MK's said: Why do they have to march in Jerusalem; They should march in Sedom!)

Let's hope that somehow it will end well. I feel somehow pessimistic.

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