Daily Israel Report

Working to Stop the Gay Pride Event in the Holy Land

With only 7 weeks til the week-long Gay Pride event is set to be held in Jerusalem, grassroots groups are working furiously to try to stop it, hoping for more cooperation from politicians & rabbis.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 6/22/2006, 9:06 AM / Last Update: 6/19/2006, 4:18 PM

A group of women from the Jerusalem area and other cities have banded together, collecting signatures, speaking to politicians, and trying to drum up opposition to the parade from religious leaders.

In addition, Rabbi Yehuda Levin, of the Jews for Morality organization, has arrived for his sixth privately-funded trip to Israel in the past two and a half years, all dedicated to one goal: Stopping the World Pride event from being held in Jerusalem, and in Israel at all.

Tamar Yonah hosted Rabbi Levin and women of the above group on her IsraelNationalRadio.com radio program yesterday. "This thing is not just any march," Yonah said, "but a weeklong event - and it even includes a Youth Day! I mean, what the heck is that? What do they want with our youth?!"

"They're not simply demanding equal rights," Tamar said, "which could be understandable. They're actually showing pride in their sexual choice, and based on photos from other parades, they dress very scantily and exhibit physical erotic contact on the streets. Is this what we want on the streets of Jerusalem?"

Rebecca, one of the concerned women who are collecting signatures - not by internet; send email here for information - said that Jerusalem City Councilwoman Mina Fenton has said that 50,000 signatures would make a big difference. "It will show the police, for instance, that the event could turn into a major security headache," she said, "and is just not worth it."

"I want to make it clear," Rebecca noted, "that this is not a homophobic issue; if the Mardi Gras, a heterosexual event, were to be held here, we would object with the same vociferousness. The reason is because Jerusalem is the spiritual dimension of the world; it is a spiritual jewel to the world, and we don't want it tarnished... We want to show that the majority of the people in this city do not want sexuality paraded arounded without modesty or dignity. In addition, homosexuality in particular is not something that we want to see advocated in our holy city."

Rebecca said that her co-activists are "a large and growing group of women, of all types -secular, hareidi, and religious-Mizrachi; we should not be underestimated."

Rabbi Levin had some advice for the women, as well as some strong words against the Mayor of Jerusalem:
"I want to, first of all, salute you for your work. All eyes are upon your efforts, so remain strong... Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky [a member of the hareidi-religious community] cannot excuse himself from further efforts merely by having been the first one to sign your petition. The petition has to make it clear that we're not just asking nicely not to hold the event in Jerusalem, but that if they dare to have it here, we will all of us - 50,000 people - be out on the streets to protest, and that there will be confrontations."

"I also hope there is no thought of a compromise," Rabbi Levin said, "such as holding it in Tel Aviv instead. Because their goal is to make this event a kick-off to make Tel Aviv, and by extension, all of Israel, into a world capital of international homosexual tourism. I hope we're saying that we will not have this anywhere in Israel; it's offensive anywhere in the Holy Land."

Another activist woman, Sherry, said, "Last year, the representative of the Vatican said that Jerusalem is a city of humble people, who bow down to G-d, and this is no place for a Pride parade of any kind. I think this is a statement that resonates."

Rabbi Levin said, "I certainly hope that the Catholic Church will do the right thing and speak out, but I just want to point out that in the end, the authorities are not really interested in our word games and in the relation between pride and humility; the only thing they understand is political power, and they better know that the religious public of Jerusalem will vote for anyone other than a religious representative who is not out there on the streets against this event. This must be your message, and I hope you don't allow any wiggle room for politicians to make compromises or hold photo-ops that make it seem as if they're doing something."

Rabbi Levin had strong words against Chief Rabbi Metzger who pushed off a discussion on the issue in favor of efforts to find a compromise, with the rabbinate consequently taking no action:
"Shame on rabbis who want to find a compromise with a Torah commandment. I'm pleading with you now: remember that politicians will twist you around, and remember that each one in City Hall is a politician first and a religious Jew second...

"Gay Pride parades have been stopped in Warsaw, Tiberias, and Moscow, but Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky has done precious little about this; he barely mentions anything about it. You gave him an honor by allowing him to sign first, but you have to tell him that if he doesn't work with you strongly to stop this openly and publicly, you'll hold a press conference to cross off his name from the top of the list. Tell him that you don't need his name at the top, but we rather need people who are doing things!"

But Rabbi Levin saves his strongest criticism for those who claim to be religious, yet promote homosexuality as a legitimate choice. "They are actively promoting homosexuality among the young, and for this, there can be no forgiveness," he said in a separate interview.

Rabbi Levin said that some Knesset Members - such as Tzvi Hendel, Effie Eitam, Yitzchak Levy, Nissim Ze'ev, and Benny Elon - "promised me they would lie on the streets if it comes to that." But there are others, he said, specifically from United Torah Judaism, for whom he had very sharp criticism "for not having their rabbinic leaders light a fire under their tails and tell them not to come back to the Knesset if they can't stand up. In addition, some of them are dissemblers who don't tell the whole story to their leaders, because they are more concerned with their political careers."

Tamar Yonah noted that Mayor Lupoliansky can be faxed at (+9722) 6296014. "If he has thousands of anti-Gay Pride parade faxes on his desk," the show's guests agreed, "this will give him the strength to know that people will follow him if he will just lead."