In the last week I have heard a lot of debate about gay pride in Israel. When I walk around Tel Aviv and I see gay couples freely walking the streets holding hands and kissing it is strange to think that outside the city so much controversy surrounds the issue.
I have listened to discussions about the relevance of having a gay pride parade or the lack thereof and not only what it means to be out and proud, but also whether gay people have anything to be proud of in the first place. Many Israelis that I have talked to are of the opinion that it’s ok to be gay as long as it is kept in the bedroom and out of view of the public and deny that there is a need to have a day where different forms of sexuality are celebrated. This is where I have to respectfully disagree.
Every era has its own social revolution where different minority groups struggle for equality and acceptance in mainstream society. We spend all this time reading about civil rights and women's suffrage when we grow up, but it's amazing to think that we are in the middle of a huge civil rights movement of our own. In a hundred years it will probably seem crazy that gays in our time had to struggle for their rights, but nobody knows how we are going to get there in the short term.
My mom and dad were teenagers when the Equal Pay Act for men and women was passed in the US in 1963 and it was that same year that Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech demanding equality for America’s black population. It was not such a long time ago that women and blacks were considered to be a lesser part of society and it was due to my parent’s generation that those laws were changed. It is our generation’s responsibility to continue to fight for equal rights, which includes marching for our gay population.
Jews, Israel, and gaysLet us not forget that homosexuals were persecuted right next to the Jews in the Holocaust. Most people don’t mention this when they speak of the tragedies of the Holocaust, but homosexuals were tortured, starved, and killed in the same concentration camps that Jews were kept prisoner in.
When I was traveling in Amsterdam, my friends and I went straight from visiting the Anne Frank house to the Homo-Monument, which honors the estimated 10,000 homosexuals killed in the Holocaust. Both were powerful experiences and serve as a reminder that it is not a fight about who has suffered more, but about how together we can create a world where no human should have to suffer the indignities that were placed upon our ancestors.
The state of Israel was created in response to the Holocaust because the Jewish people needed a place to go where we can be free to be Jewish without fear of persecution. It is an absolute abomination that any Jew would dare to deny a gay person’s right to equality, regardless of what the Bible may preach about the right and wrong of being homosexual.
The truth is that we are all people. We are humans who should care about our neighbor, care about their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness whatever the color of their skin, religion of choice or sexual orientation. Whenever there is a group that does not have the same rights as others in society it is absolutely their right to demand to be heard, raise their voice, and say it is time for the world to change.
It is especially important to adhere to these values in Israel, a land that was created in order to give the Jews a place to be free.