You might have heard about the riots engulfing Jerusalem this week as the cityâ€™s ultra-Orthodox population vents its rage leading up to Fridayâ€™s Demonstration for Pride and Tolerance (aka, the Gay Parade).
Sadly, the virtues many of us learned in Jew School â€“ such as tolerance, pluralism and respect for â€œthe otherâ€ â€“ are too much for Jerusalemâ€™s holy homophobes to handle. We should note that most of the men setting dumpsters on fire, blocking roads, and pelting pedestrians with stones, donâ€™t have much else to do on a day-to-day basis. As ultra-Orthodox men, few of them hold jobs, pay taxes, or serve in the army, like every other Israeli. Their â€œjobâ€ is the Torah, whose message of peace and respect for all human beings has been quite lost on them.
This week, the â€œeternal capital of the Jewish peopleâ€ is filled with posters offering $5,000 for anyone who murders a homosexual. The Council of Rabbis in Judea and Samaria, a settler movement rabbinic body, plans a prayer rally atop the Temple Mount on Thursday morning in response to the â€œmenacing plotâ€ hatched by Jerusalem gays. Most excitingly, Rabbis of the â€œPulsa Dâ€™nuraâ€ (â€œBlows of Fireâ€) sect are gearing up for a kabbalistic ceremony in which unearthly powers will be unleashed against the cityâ€™s gays. What would Madonna say about this flagrant misuse of Kabbalah?
Orthodox Jerusalemâ€™s animosity for all things under the rainbow is nothing new, and itâ€™s not limited to preventing an annual display of tolerance and diversity. The campaign against gays in Jerusalem comes from City Hall itself, where Mayor Uri Lupolianski has done everything in his power to prevent the gay community from even caring for itself.
Several months ago, Israelâ€™s Supreme Court forced Lupolianski and his cronies to release mandatory cultural funding to the Jerusalem Open House, the cityâ€™s gay community center. The Open Houseâ€™s â€œsinsâ€ include providing support to gay teens (known to face higher suicide rates), reaching out to gay Palestinian men and women (the only organization in the region to do so), and building awareness of the unique healthcare challenges faced by gays and lesbians.
Fortunately for Israeli democracy, the Attorney General and Supreme Court have upheld the Jerusalem Open Houseâ€™s right to hold Fridayâ€™s demonstration. Thousands of black-clad thugs hoped to intimidate national leaders into canceling the event; however, their terrorist tactics and gross display of homophobic hate will likely have a boomerang effect. â€œMiddle Israelâ€ has long been disenchanted with the excessive power over civil affairs wielded by Israelâ€™s relatively small religious parties. This weekâ€™s hate orgy is but a small taste of what Israel could become if these anti-democratic forces go unchecked (namely, Iran).
To many peopleâ€™s surprise, Israeli law is years ahead of the US in terms gay rights and anti-discrimination measures. Ultra-Orthodox Jerusalemâ€™s behavior this week does not reflect the sentiment of your average Israeli, committed to freedom of expression and a â€œlive and let liveâ€ mentality. This â€œsilent majorityâ€ must take decisive action to make sure Israel lives up to Judaismâ€™s highest values. This week, â€œreligiousâ€ men set those values ablaze with each dumpster they torched in our Holy City.
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