Thursday, August 1, 2013


Security was very tight as I left the national library, on the Giv'at Ram campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which is more or less across the street from the Israeli parliament building. As I walked down the hill back towards the center of town, there were pairs of police officers stationed no further than five yards apart from each other, all the way down the main road; it's almost a three mile walk to the major intersection where I was headed and the security only got tighter. Streets were closed and blockaded with police cars, and the sidewalks were taped off. I assumed that a motorcade with a high-level diplomatic delegation would be making its way to the parliament building. It was security unlike security I have ever seen in Jerusalem, even at the height of the disengagement controversy in 2005.

And when I finally got to the crest of the hill where Rambam becomes Agron and mets up with Keren ha-Yesod and King George, I found myself literally in the middle of the Jerusalem gay pride parade.

I grew up in San Francisco and live in New York, which is to say that this was singularly the tamest gay pride parade I have ever seen. It was really also the most moving, though. Right-wing religious zealots have a history of perpetrating violent hate crimes against gay people in Israel, and of targeting the parade in particular, hence the dramatic security. People here were really putting themselves at risk of harm for the sake of being visible and agitating for equality; and they did it anyway.

One thing that was interesting to note during this trip was that, especially with the ongoing controversy over what constitutes things like "custom," "modesty," and "propriety," as it relates to how Jewish women can pray in public and at sacred sites, the people I was meeting and speaking with generally seemed a lot more interested in issues of gender and sexual orientation as they play into questions of how to balance religious and secular life than they were in the matzav, the "situation" with the Palestinians.  (And in spite of what others are saying* in the vaguely academic corners of the blogosphere, the law and its enforcement is starting — slowly, to be sure, but, I hope, steadily — to catch up.)

In Hebrew, ga'avah is the word for pride, which yields a nice bilingual play on words that is often played up in slogans — the adjective derived from it, the word that means proud, is ge'eh, (pronounced like "gay" but with a glottal stop in the middle).

*Yes, I am having a bona fide "somebody is wrong on the internet" moment.

No comments:

Post a Comment