The gay couple marrying tomorrow at J'lem Pride respond to Barkat
Yochai Werman and Yotam Hacohen, two natives of Israel's capital, intend to marry each other in their hometown at the Pride parade on Thursday; MKs have been invited, couple hope to spread the message, 'It's not provocation—it's our lives.'
Yochai Werman and Yotam Hacohen intend to celebrate their love at the Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance on Thursday by holding a marriage ceremony at Liberty Bell Park.
Their joy however, will also be accompanied by sadness with the murder of 16-year-old Shira Banki in last year's Pride parade figuring in the background. Prominent rabbis speaking against the LGBT community, and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat's announcement on Wednesday morning that he would not be attending for fear of causing 'harm' to the religious have also done little to remove the shadow of mourning.
"It really saddened me," said Werman." We're not trying to hurt anybody."
The couple both grew up in Jerusalem, and today they live in Tel Aviv where they are studying for advanced degrees at the Weizmann Institute of Science. After four years together, they decided to wed in the heart of their native city's celebration of Pride.
Werman explained, "Both of us were in the Pride parade last year in Jerusalem, and the murder of Shira really affected us. The Haredi press incites against us, members of Knesset say things that aren't fitting to be said in a democratic country."
"We wanted to support the Pride parade; it's an important demonstration because Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and because Jerusalem represents the population of the State of Israel as it really is," he continued. "We hope to return to live in the city after we finish our studies, and it's important to us that we be able to live in our city how we want to."
The fiancés said that the mayor's decision not to attend the event is puzzling to them. Hacohen explained, "When someone says that our march is 'damage,' it's not like we can have a private party in a private location. When we tried to rent a hall for our wedding but they refused to rent to us, claiming that they weren't ready to host a wedding for gay men. So statements like that, about hurting someone's feelings when we just want to march in a public place, are unacceptable to us."
Hacohen is the son of a longtime Jerusalemite family—he's the fifth generation—while Werman grew up in a religious family. They both shared that their families completely accepted and supported them when they came out of the closet, but it took them time take to get used to the idea of such a public wedding, especially in light of last year's murder.
"It's important to me to transmit a message not to the march's opponents, but to the people who say that they're on our side but ask, 'But why in Jerusalem?' I want to tell them, 'I need you in my fight to walk the streets of Jerusalem and say that I'm gay without being afraid,'" said Hacohen.
While feelings of trepidation are not absent from the couple due to last year's horrors, they refuse to give in to them. In recent weeks, they've contacted several politicians on Facebook and invited them to the wedding. MKs Shelly Yachimovich and Zehava Galon have both replied that they'll be attending while Nir Barkat has declined, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett has yet to RSVP. To the public at large, they say, "Come to our wedding, say 'mazal tov' and that we have a place in Jerusalem and in the State of Israel."
Werman summarized by saying that he hoped the wedding would convey the message that gay marriage is not intended to be a provocation: "I think that this is the essence of the wedding: saying, where's the provocation here?' I'm a gay man, I'm a gay man from Jerusalem—is this is provocation? Is being a lesbian in Be'er Sheva provocation? It's not provocation—it's our lives."