My mother innocently said it was "good for me to have a roommate," and my response cut like a knife. "Mom, I'm gay."
I'll never forget the long nights, my parent's tears and their worry. "What, you'll never have children?"
Today, things look a lot better. Years of openness, of Yael Dayan, Shulamit Aloni, Dana International and other important purveyors of freedom have made Israel a modern country and opened doors to all kinds.
But now, I hear Shas Party Chairman Eli Yishai say gays are "sick" and even wish me a "speedy recovery". He also hopes medical science will soon find a cure for my illness.
Same ideas as Yishai, just a bit more brutal (Photo: Reuters)
I don't usually get too upset about illiterate boors like Yishai. But I thought about my simple parents, and others like them, who hear his words and are offended to the depths of their souls.
They are the ones who have to accept their children the way they are, and most travel a long, difficult path in order to do this. Now, they've got to hear their children are sick.
From my perspective, Eli Yishai is the scariest strain of slick politicians. With his polished appearances, expensive suits and trendy glasses (isn't he supposed to be "working class"?) he appears to be part of a progressive religious strain. He purports to represent both tradition and progress, ritual with Hugo Boss.
Beware the 'new left'
But behind the Shas poster boy's public image there is a racist homophobe. Under different circumstances he might well dispatch trucks to known gay hangouts and transfer me, and other gays and lesbians, maybe to all those damn Ashkenazim who don't have a copy of the traveler's prayer in the car and have got no holy water from some-or-another Baba.
I'm not afraid of Eli Yishai. I'm afraid of all the new "nice people" on the Israeli Left, who wouldn't hesitate to make agreements with the political devil to attain their goals.
Take Shelly Yechimovich, the Labor Party's newest weapon. She's used every opportunity to stress her willingness to work with the ultra-Orthodox to pass laws that would anchor workers rights on Shabbat and would prevent pornography.
Even Meretz has taken pains to show it is "not against" sitting in government with Shas, "to advance the cause of peace," even given the fact that Shas was strongly opposed to disengagement.
Go tell that to Zahava Gal-On. The new leftists claim "we mustn't hate the ultra-Orthodox just because they are ultra-Orthodox," but they forget that people like Yishai hate me only because I am not like them.
They preach hatred for gays, hatred for lefties, hatred for the secular (especially new immigrants), and hatred for foreigners.
Yearning for Lapid
I admit that something about Yishai's latest outburst brought out strong yearnings for former Shinui leader Yosef Lapid. I never voted for him and was never a strong supporter. I'm also not so sure Lapid was such a great friend of the gays, despite the fact he never missed a pride parade. In my heart of hearts, I was really happy when Shinui fell apart.
But Lapid, as opposed to neuvo-leftists like Yechimovich, Gal-On and the like, never hesitated to take a strong stance against the haredim (ultra-Orthodox), clear and unbending. He presented them as disgraceful, and even when he became a political joke, his words were honest and correct.
His was the only sane voice in healthy secular circles just looking to survive. A long list of mistakes, both by Lapid and his colleagues, relegated him and his party to the history books, and left us with Eli Yishai and his new political friends, who would sell me to the lowest bidder for a good anti-porno law.
At a time when Israel faces a dark enemy likes Hamas (a group that also, like Eli Yishai, views homosexuality as a danger that must be "cured" – just by a bit more brutal methods), the Israeli Left needs stronger voices and a less self-righteousness.