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'Your cause is not a gesture of tolerance but an act of war'
Photo: Reuters
Don't disrupt a tolerant city
An open letter to the organizers of the Jerusalem Gay pride parade
To the leaders of Israel's homosexual community

 

Thank you for your interest in coming to Jerusalem to promote tolerance of the gay and lesbian communities this summer, but you seem to have things a bit wrong. Jerusalem is actually one of the most tolerant cities in the world, and there is no need for you to come and disrupt our balance. You see, Jerusalem is home to the greatest diversity on the planet.

 

Our ancient city is central to three of the world's largest religions, and home to the most zealous fundamentalists of each. Our citizens have immigrated from every country in the world, and come with competing national heritages layered with different prejudices, languages, and cultural influences. In fact, judging by just about any metric, from economic security to sexual orientation to political leanings to any other aspect of humanity, Jerusalem's populace is among the most complex out there.

 

Grassroots coexistence

 

With all that, you should find it amazing that there is so little conflict in day-to-day interactions. Religious and secular people have no problem working together in the office, and often maintain warm relations outside the workplace as well. Rich and poor immigrants from Eastern and Western countries shop at the same marketplaces, and pray in the same synagogues.

 

I have been pleasantly surprised to see protests for and against government policies going on peacefully on opposite corners of the same street, and I sometimes marvel at how much commerce goes on between Jews and Arabs. Given all the pressures that are part of life in this country, I would say the general level of tolerance in Jerusalem borders on miraculous.

 

No choice

 

How is all this possible? Perhaps it comes as a result of our diversity- a recognition that, without tolerance for each other, Israeli society would implode very quickly. The delicate fabric of society sometimes necessitates that we try not to wave our differences in each other's faces too much, and that we do the best we can to stifle our reactions when we are offended.

 

Sure, we have a lot of issues with different portions of society- and freely express them amongst our like-minded friends- but it is very rare that this translates into discrimination, hate crime or verbal abuse. And that's what tolerance really means: the ability to get along with people who believe or act differently than we do. If everyone supports or opposes something, they does not make them tolerant, just like-minded.

 

Instigating violence

 

True, it happens now and then that violent acts perpetrated by rebellious youths make headlines and get blown out of proportion by the media. However, the vast majority of Jerusalemites, religious and secular, strongly oppose such behavior.

 

And that's where your parade becomes so problematic. Instead of celebrating "dignity, pride, and boundary-crossing" in times of "intolerance and suspicion," as your website proclaims, it is only fanning the fires of prejudice and reinforcing negative stereotypes of your community. Apart from last year's parade at which three people were stabbed, I cannot think of a single violent act or statement against gays and lesbians in recent years, but your parade is sparking more and more hateful language in the press and on the streets since it was approved by the courts.

 

Various polls have shown that 70% to 85% of the city's populace is opposed to the parade, and the outrage is getting more intense as days go by. Protesters are petitioning whoever they can in the justice system to have the parade blocked, and there are threats of violence.

 

Please leave us in peace

 

We don't want to threaten you, even though some people feel that there is no other choice. We want to continue to accept you as we always have. With the most basic basic human compassion, we are begging you now, "please don't come to our city to offend us and stir up trouble.

Let us continue to live in peace and agree to respectfully disagree, for the good of everybody."

 

Unless that's not your goal. There are many who believe that the parade is intended as an act of provocation, in order to rile up the zealots in order to embarrass them. If that's the case, then please be aware that your cause is not a gesture of tolerance but an act of war, and that any blood shed in the process is your own responsibility.

 

But if promoting tolerance is truly your aim, I can think of no greater action right now than to broadcast a simple message: "In deference to the sensitive nature of Jerusalem's history and people, we have decided to cancel the Gay Pride parade." Now that would truly be something to be proud of.

 

Zev Stub lives in Jerusalem and is the moderator of the Jerusalem Anglo Protexia (JANGLO) email list

 

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