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Photo: Avigail Uzi
Pride parade
Photo: Avigail Uzi
In support of free speech
Religious Jerusalemite explains why he intends to take part in pride parade
I am a straight, married, religious Jew, a resident of Jerusalem – the eternal capital of Israel and a holy city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam - who leans to the political Right. I plan on marching in the Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance, a march that sends the message that “gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people are – and always have been – a vital part of humanity.”

 

I do not agree with every speaker or policy statement that has come out of the organizers of the parade. I recognize that Jewish law prohibits certain specific sexual actions – both for homosexuals and heterosexuals. Nevertheless, despite the chillul Hashem (desecration of God’s name) of the fundamentalist protestors and the Jerusalem municipality, halakha (Jewish law) does not prohibit a loving relationship between two people.

 

However, halakha does prohibit destroying public property and speaking ill of one another (lashon hara). Halakha certainly prohibits attempted murder (such as the stabbing that occurred two years ago during the last gay-rights parade), arson, and spreading nails in streets – which can only cause harm to motorists. Halakha prohibits rioting.

 

If anyone is violating Jewish law and bringing disgrace to Jerusalem it is not the supporters of the pride march, but rather, those religious fundamentalists who use violence to speak in the name of Judaism.

 

Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel. In a democratic state in which all voices are heard, to shut down any event due to violence is wrong. The violence of the haredi protestors (an all-too common means of protest among that sector of society), besides being a desecration of Judaism and a chillul Hashem, shares too much in common with Israel’s enemies. Putting nails in the street, setting fires, and stoning cars is liable to cause the death of innocent people – all to stop a political march from occurring.

 

The word terrorism is defined in political science as the use of violence to achieve political goals. The behavior of Israel’s haredi sector in using violence and hatred to make a political point is nothing less than terrorism and no better than the actions of the Islamofascists who want to destroy Israel.

 

The violence of those who oppose tolerance and want to silence speech has too much in common with Israel’s enemies. The violence against the parade that has occurred this past week in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood could easily be found in Ramallah or Gaza except that the Palestinian Authority suppresses dissent and fans hatred.

 

For Israel to do the same is a disgrace to democracy and a disgrace to Judaism. Violence is not the means to demonstrate dissent in a democracy and those who use violence to express their opinions should be arrested. They have every right to oppose the parade and hold their own viewpoints but they have no right to silence others through violence and non-democratic means. There is no right to not be offended!

 

Taking stand against bigotry 

Instead of suppressing free speech, the police need to be arresting those who do not adhere to the laws of the State of Israel. That the police let violence to be used to suppress speech is a disgrace to democratic norms. Those who commit violence ought to be arrested and it is the job of the police and this country’s security services to defend Israel’s citizenry against fanning the flames of hatred and the use of violence to express an opinion.

 

One does not have to support the gay agenda to believe in civil rights and the right to free speech. As Evelyn Beatrice Hall said in a famous quote attributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” This is my motto and in a tradition that records the view of the minority as well as the majority, it ought to be the motto of all who believe in Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

 

My Judaism commands me, in addition to the ritual laws which I try my best to uphold, to also V’ahavta L’reacha K’mocha – to love your neighbor as you love yourself. The actions of the Haredi minority do not represent authentic Judaism and must be opposed by all religious leaders and defenders of democracy.

 

My Judaism commands me to take a stand against bigotry in my neighborhood and outside my house in Jerusalem. In support of tolerance, democracy and freedom, I will still be marching proudly with kippah on and tzitzit out in support of a tolerant Jerusalem for all of God’s creatures. Not simply in support of gay rights, but rather, in support of free speech and against the use of violence to silence speech.

 

In place of a parade for the rights of one segment of society, I strongly urge everyone who cares about peace, tolerance and free speech to come out this Friday to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city, and demonstrate in opposition of violence and terror and in support of democracy and freedom in the State of Israel.

 

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