Losing Pride in Jerusalem

It is unclear how many residents of the Dan region are prepared to divide Jerusalem, but sometimes it seems as if many of them have already given up the entire city - if not to the Palestinians, then to the ultra-Orthodox.

It is unclear how many residents of the Dan region are prepared to divide Jerusalem, but sometimes it seems as if many of them have already given up the entire city - if not to the Palestinians, then to the ultra-Orthodox. They try to avoid traveling to Jerusalem, are not keen to study there and complain about the secular residents who continue to live in the capital. They consider it a city that belongs to others, a city of tension, of the sacred and the profane, of religious wars, of terrorist attacks and the "Jerusalem Syndrome." Some of them prefer not to know what is happening in the city, perhaps out of a fear that the virus of fanaticism will infect freedom-loving, carefree Tel Aviv; in examining if I shall remember thee, O Jerusalem, the illusion that I am living in Amsterdam will be destroyed.

The claim, which secular people have also voiced, that the international Gay Pride parade should not be held in Jerusalem so as not to offend the ultra-Orthodox, must be examined against the backdrop of the process whereby the city is being repressed. When secular people accept the approach that the ultra-Orthodox of Jerusalem must be considered and the event canceled, they are in fact accepting the claim that Jerusalem is a city of fanatical religious people. Rather than expressing tolerance, this approach reflects a defamiliarization with Jerusalem - a decision that it is not part of enlightened, democratic Israel. After all, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. And everyone holds demonstrations in a capital city. A reminder: Less that a decade ago, a truly terrible event was held in Jerusalem, when a quarter-of-a-million people demonstrated against the Supreme Court. No one tried to prevent this even though it was a tough blow to the feelings of all those who believe in democracy.

In reality, Jerusalem is not one city. It is three cities - Arab, ultra-Orthodox and free. The parade will not pass through the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, will not go near the Old City and will not come close to any holy site. One hardly sees ultra-Orthodox or Arab residents in the "free" part of the city. It will not be a disaster if the few who do go there make sure that they are not in the parade route on August 10. It is therefore not that gays and lesbians are participating in the event in the city of the ultra-Orthodox. It is the ultra-Orthodox who are threatening to flood the secular areas of Jerusalem.

The following proposal could be more efficient: Those who are interested in demonstrating against the parade should gather at the same hour in front of the Western Wall to pray and protest.

The free part of Jerusalem is one of the most secular parts of this country. The cultural and entertainment activity there is second only to Tel Aviv. There are limitless academic institutions, research institutes, centers of culture and thought.

One has to have quite a large dose of arrogance to propose, in the name of Jerusalem's secular population, and in the name of Jerusalem's gay population, that the parade should not be held there and be moved instead elsewhere in order to take the feelings of the ultra-Orthodox into consideration.

The Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem does not resemble that of Tel Aviv at all. It is a kind of demonstration, not a happening and not a party, because it is a Jerusalem event and therefore "heavy." There are no entertainment stages during the parade in the capital. Here and there, men may be dressed in women's clothing, but in order to find them, the ultra-Orthodox will have to stand close by and search hard. There is no provocation in the outward appearance of the parade. The ultra-Orthodox, of course, consider the very fact that gays want to say "We are here and we are proud of it" to be a kind of provocation.

If there is one public that should have a great interest in holding this event in Jerusalem, it is the residents of the capital, including the ultra-Orthodox. Had Jerusalem hired a PR agent, he would have had to initiate a Gay Pride parade in order to improve the city's image. Because today gays and lesbians are an integral part of any modern society. A city that cannot find a place for gays is not a holy place in secular eyes, but rather a place to be ostracized - a kind of 3,000-year-old settlement.

And even if Jerusalem can not be evacuated physically, the residents of the Dan region are constantly withdrawing from it, in their consciousness. Therefore, it is not the Tel Avivians who will come to the Gay Pride event that are Jerusalem's problem, but rather the Tel Avivians for whom it is no longer important that there should be such an event in Jerusalem.