Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Pride and Prejudice

I bumped into a bunch of English guys last night in Mike's Place, three seconds after I'd bought a soldier on leave from Lebanon another beer.
For once they weren't a group of football fans, UN soldiers or journalists travelling together, so everyone had opinions of their own. One preached 'when in Rome...' (like I needed to learn it?) and another expressed similar sentiments in a more modern way, aka 'when in New York...'
We were discussing the Gay Pride march, which was to have been held in Jerusalem and now is not.
The Third Man, being non-Jewish and new to the area, felt strongly that the Gay Pride parade should've been allowed in Jerusalem. 'Why not Tel Aviv?' I asked - Tel Aviv is far more European than Jerusalem will ever be. 'That's no challenge, obviously,' the American Jewish visitor sitting behind me offered.
Probably that's the entire reasoning behind this particular issue.
The Third Man certainly thought so, but his response to that idea and mine were so far apart that we found each other offensive, even though we'd both played by the rules of social engagement.I think having a Gay Pride march in Jerusalem at present would open the town up to overt violence all over again, as opposed to the bubbling undercurrent of potential violence we all know and love. The effort to prevent the parade united Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious leaders here.
Now that is an achievement; in Israel we hear next to nothing about these moments of unity between religions, but briefly there was peace... peace in a stranglehold maybe, but still peace...He thinks having a Gay Pride march in Jerusalem will normalize the city, make it part of the world. Hm. Yeah actually so do the rabbis, priests and imams. That's why none of them want it. How's a man to make a living?... nah, it really would be offensive to them, as it would to many sectors of the population living here. Including me, and please don't bother telling me I'm anti-gay, because I'm demonstrably not. I just think if I'm treading on someone else's toes it'd be polite to move away, is all.Inevitably, Daniel said to me (much, much later) he was all for hosting the Gay Pride march in Jerusalem. 'If you need to say something you should say it loud'. 'But in Jerusalem?'
- I'm shocked. Heck, I might be a goy but I don't even eat pork in Jerusalem, it would feel so wrong. Jerusalem is a beautiful princess in bondage gear, waiting hopefully for her Prince Charming to come back. And there you have it, in a nutshell.The debate isn't about whether you are for or against gay activism; the debate is about whether you see Jerusalem as a symbol, or as a city much like any other. Seeing her as a symbol doesn't in any way preclude knowing Jerusalem as a city, but it's the one thing the various religious factions here share and understand about one another, without effort. Treating her as a secular city means ignoring that other reality; it effectively means sidelining the religious population, of all persuasions.
While that may be a road to a secular peace, it doesn't take into account the history of the city, or its social make up, or its physical situation on the borderline between East and West. It assumes that everyone else is - or should be - prepared to leave God out of the equation. In Jerusalem, that's quite an assumption to make.
I'd join that march - in Tel Aviv.


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