Finding Pride in Gay Jerusalem

In contrast to the huge pride parades in Western capitals, the Jerusalem parade is still subversive in ways which truly merit our pride.

The Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade is unique. It still has a little of the subversion that characterized the first gay pride marches - the revelation of a truth that everyone is trying to hide, something that society swallows with difficulty - that suddenly emerges and demands recognition, realizing that actually it is beautiful and fitting to be gay.

This place, on the fringes, still has a certain validity in Jerusalem, because to be gay there - and sometimes, just to be there and not necessarily religious - is an act of being a minority. In contrast to the huge pride parades in Western capitals, in which men - mostly white and well-established - show their power, in Jerusalem there is still a lot more room for being proud.

One of the most wonderful creations of Israeli poetry is "Pride," by Dahlia Ravikovitch. The rocks in this poem crack not because of age but because they are proud, admitting they are made of feelings, of love. The pride is such that its fortified walls are broken, and it admits that it needs the other. Love is a need.

Amid the silent, anonymous world of the Internet, it seems that scaling the simulated fortified walls, and the march toward the outside of the fortress, is possible. On Grindr, a website serving the gay community (don't worry, there are some straight people among us), you can see the site’s surfers near you, and how close they are.

In Jerusalem you can see within reach - just a kilometer or two away - gay Palestinians, some of them already out of the closet. Whoever opens the circle a bit wider, to five kilometers, will find places he is actually unable to reach - such as Ramallah. The binational reality suddenly looks so simple and natural; it is within touching distance and enables closeness.

And the possibility of a pride march receives a surprising twist - for only with our legs can we cover these kinds of distances easily; to thank those we need, who we basically want. Whoever thinks he can get by, that he doesn't need anyone, that he is strong alone, whoever is proud that he doesn't blink first should remember the rocks in Ravikovitch's poem, that "suddenly the rock has an open wound ... when rocks crack, it comes as a surprise."

Every person who says to somebody “I love you” essentially does something subversive, is ready to be defeated. Precisely in this way, by total surrender, he merits our pride.

Where else can we find true pride in Jerusalem? Pride will be found in the place where the gay Arab need not be embarrassed and will go out and demonstrate his love. It is the same if a young yeshiva bocher reveals, not only to the rabbi but also to his friends, that he loves. Or in the most vulnerable place of all - that a woman, perhaps disabled, or a refugee from a foreign land - will get up and say: “I love you.”

The writer is a doctoral student in comparative Jewish literature in the European Forum in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Olivier Fitoussi