Gay Pride on Givat Ram

Parade supporters claim it is impossible to prevent the residents of Jerusalem from marching in their city, and the religious public claims the parade will be a severe blow to its feelings.

It is very easy to be right in the debate about the Gay Pride Parade. Both sides have strong and well-grounded arguments and emotionally charged viewpoints. Parade supporters claim it is impossible to prevent the residents of Jerusalem from marching in their city and expressing themselves. And even more importantly, the attempt to prevent the parade through violence has turned into a test of Israel's ability to preserve the rule of law in West Jerusalem. The religious public claims the parade will be a severe blow to its feelings. This community's point of view holds that the Torah itself requires it to object to the parade.

This clash reflects the conflict between the two aspects of Jerusalem: As a capital city, in other words, a place where everyone is permitted to hold assemblies and to demonstrate, and as a Holy City in which the feelings of believers must be respected. Until now, the battle over the parade has been conducted as religious wars usually are, in an attempt to achieve a clear and aggressive victory by one side.

In my opinion, the very fact that Jerusalem is also a capital city offers the possible compromise solution of an alternative route: The parade will go ahead, but not in the center of Jerusalem. Rather, it will take place in its center of government. Here is the route I propose: Marchers will start out at the usual demonstration site in the Rose Garden in Givat Ram, opposite the Knesset, and will continue past the government ministries, the Shrine of the Book and the Israel Museum, overlooking the Givat Ram campus of Hebrew University and descend to the Valley of the Cross. The concluding event will take place at Sacher Park at the foot of the Knesset and the Supreme Court.

We are not talking about a small step for the benefit of the opponents, but a big step, which moves about a kilometer or two westward from the city center, away from the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods and, in effect, from any residential area.

In July, the lead editorial of Haaretz suggested a compromise: a demonstration in the Rose Garden. The route proposed here preserves that principle, but also reflects the fact that the annual demonstration of the homosexual community is a parade rather than a rally.

We can expect the ultra-Orthodox leadership, and certainly the national-religious community, to recognize the fact that there are events that should not be prevented from taking place at the Government Compound. The opponents are not being asked to refrain from demonstrations and protests against the parade. They have a right to protest, just as gays and lesbians have a right to march. The rabbis are only being asked to ensure there will be no violence, and they are capable of doing so. Perhaps we should not expect the Beit Din of the Eida Haredit (the religious court of the ultra-Orthodox community), a body that thrives on extremism, to be a partner to such a move; but if the other Haredi leaders come out with a severe prohibition against violence, this will suffice.

As far as the police are concerned, this is an effective proposal. The proposed area is isolated, nearly no one works there on Fridays, access can easily be bloc ked there, and the police have already provided security there for innumerable demonstrations. The deal is a reasonable one for the homosexual community as well. The current suggested route passes only along the margins of the city center, among hotels, cafes and car rental agencies. The route proposed here is no less respectable.

There is no question that I would have liked the parade to begin at the gay and lesbian community's Open House in the heart of Jerusalem's pedestrian mall, and to continue in the city center, just like any parade. But we must not allow anyone to win in the struggle that has developed in Jerusalem - not even the side I support. The Beit Din of the Eida Haredit must not discover that the Israeli rule of law can be overcome by force, because that would be a dangerous precedent. But we must also not allow the large Orthodox and Haredi community to feel that its feelings and beliefs have been disregarded. That is particularly dangerous in light of the fact that the police would like to pass the hot potato on to the High Court of Justice; in other words, to bring about another confrontation between the High Court and the religious public, perhaps the largest in its history.

On the other hand, the benefit of transferring the parade to a route in the government center will be more than a possible solution to the crisis of the Gay Pride Parade. The true benefit will lie in proving that profound social disputes can be solved by agreeing not to agree, and by both sides acknowledging the beliefs of the other and taking them into consideration.