June 29, 2007

Jerusalem Pride March 2007: You may not stand over the blood of your fellow man . . . לֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל-דַּם רֵעֶךָ

Carolyn Levant granted permission to share her essay and photos of the 2007 Jerusalem Pride and Tolerance March in which she and her husband, Warren Lee, participated as new Israelis. In 2006, the couple moved from the USA and made Aliya (Hebrew, "ascent" or "going up"). Jewish tradition views traveling to the land of Israel as an ascent, geographically and metaphysically. 

Date: Jun 24, 2007
Subject: Pride…

June 22, 2007

Dear Family and Friends,

Yesterday, despite… warning of danger... we joined the Pride and Tolerance March. There had been threats of violence against the marchers, and it was not until just hours before the scheduled march that the decision was reached by the police, and upheld by the Supreme Court of Israel, that it could go on. The marchers… included lesbians, gay men and many straight friends, parents and supporters. Some carried signs with slogans, rainbow flags and of course, Israeli flags. The marchers, in normal warm weather attire, no costumes, walked the short permitted route in a steady, orderly fashion, stopping… and moving again when given the OK. At one point, there was much singing.

We missed the floats that had always been a part of the other parades in other places [and] we missed the corporate sponsors….

Jerusalem was an armed camp with 7,000 police and soldiers to protect the marchers, keep order and prevent violence. There is an absurdity in these numbers, and with good reason. Several blocks away, kept separate from the marchers… was a counter demonstration…. We were told that these [10,000 ultra-Orthodox] homophobes were only the ones who showed up after many of their rabbis had, only in the last few days, counseled them to stay away and instead, pray. When the parade ended there was no rally…. the fire department was on strike and therefore the permit for the rally was denied. The streets were still teeming with marchers, police and soldiers and the buses had not yet been permitted to resume their routes.

… [We] decided to stop... for a drink… [and] to reflect on the events…. First, the vision of 7,000 armed police and soldiers to protect Jews from other Jews was a devastating reality.

I had carried a sign, which said: "We love our gay children." … [So]-called and self-described "religious" [people] believe that "the gay life" is a transgression against G-d. There is no "gay life." There are just people trying to live in the way that is natural for them. Over the years, we have counted among our friends, people who are single, partnered, straight and gay. Some are raising families and we have had the privilege of sharing family occasions, being guests in their homes and… hosting them in our home. Together, we have seen the growth of a dynamic congregation, Congregation Bet Haverim, in Atlanta, Georgia [USA].

We and many others believe that love is healthier than hate, that love makes a family, that this is an issue of civil rights, that gay marriage in no way impinges upon or negatively affects straight marriages or… the sanctity of marriage. The sanctity of straight marriages has already been torpedoed by a 50% divorce rate. We do not accept the argument, which quotes Leviticus [concerning various sexual activities, which are prohibited "lest the land vomit you out" (17:22, 20:13)] because we believe that the Torah has been interpreted many times and [in] many ways.

By the time… the buses were running… [o]ur skillful bus driver swerved to avoid the fires still burning in the streets of Jerusalem. Fires and overturned garbage dumpsters! This was the work of the "religious." Contrast this to our peaceful, lawful protest against inequity and hate.

With love, Shalom,

Carolyn's essay has been copyrighted and may be reprinted only with the inclusion of this statement.

* * *

Blessings to J. Smith (who blogs as j. brotherlove at thebrotherlove) for answering my call for help on deciding whether publishing Carolyn's essay might risk spreading the hate she describes. So he read it, then replied to me,

I can understand your hesitation…. However, I think the overall 'lesson' from this account is positive in that it shows the tenacity and core belief of those who support gay issues. Thank you for sharing this powerful message! I can't imagine the terror most of the marchers felt as they walked through the streets.

When most think of Pride parades, images of festive and happy people come to mind. But [Carolyn’s] phrase ‘We missed the floats that had always been a part of the other parades in other places, we missed the corporate sponsors,’ reveals how very different in spirit was this event.

Most of the coverage has been from the outside looking in. Your associates provide a valid and valuable picture from inside the march. While it highlights the awful truth of why such a massive armed presence was needed, it also reinforces why people — all people — should turn from violence and advocate love for one another.


Stefan, Vienna said...

Dear Tamar,
thanks for sharing your thoughts and your friend's story, that gave me an insight look into jerusalem's pride march! The marchers there have my sincere respect, my support and my love. And it reminds me of the fact that in many many more places in the world it would be an even greater danger to stand up for LGBT rights. My brothers and sisters in most countries in the world are suffering so deeply from discrimination, hatred, ignorance and persecution, sometimes lethal. Being aware of this, it seems like standing in front an enormous, nearly invincible mountain. When will it stop that the LGBT community is chased, denied access to legal rights, ignored?
Still, it is better not to keep standing in front of the mountain, but to start climbing it. With allies, friends, and everyone who wants to join in. Thank you so much, Tamar, for being a hetero ally! That is of high value to me.
Love from Vienna, where we held our "Rainbow Parade" yesterday in the city centre.

JeSais said...

Wow. Pretty big stuff. I would like to think I would march, but who can say. Although the politics of the US often embarass me, or frustrate me, I am so very grateful for the relative safety that we enjoy here-- especially when exercising our right to free speech. So by sharing this story, you are marching in your own way. Keep it up!

Tamar Orvell said...

STEFAN — Thank YOU for your perspective, which is informed by your rich experiences living in Austria and in Israel, and traveling to many European countries and some Arab nations. You are an ally to me as you work toward breaking the chains of antisemitism, anti-Israelism, and anti-Americanism.

JENN — You saw in my blogging a marching of sorts. Thank you for this imaginative take. I, too, am grateful for USA laws protecting free speech and assembly. Meanwhile daily, our safety and freedom are increasingly threatened by those who despise the USA and seek its destruction.