Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Anti -Anti (Anti-Gay)

Here, in Chicago, we just hosted the 2nd International Gay Olympics. It has been a smashing success. The event brought 12,000 gays to Chicago. The city provided 20 venues for the games, the teams were seeded, and locals and guests turned out to watch, despite temperatures over 90. The city was happy because of the additional revenue, the gays were excited to be in a city that welcomed their presence, and a good time was had by all.

Next month there was going to be, in Jerusalem, a week-long international gay festival, the highlight of which was a gay pride parade. The event has been postponed because of the war. The principle, however, has not been resolved. The event has gotten many charedim (Ultra Orthodox) people hot and bothered. The homophobia of the charedim is, to some extent, based on very strong feelings about how to live a holy and pure life. There is no better example in the Jewish world of a community that lives in holiness and purity than the 200 year old community in Meah Shearim and surroundings.

The existence of homophobia in the charedi world has angered many liberal Jews for two reasons. Charedim have let loose with a ton of homophobia that is unacceptable in today’s world. The charedi rhetoric has been inflammatory and unhelpful. Even the biggest Meah Shearim zealot must understand you can’t curse an entire group, shout obscenities and at the same time expect civil behavior from their supporters.

The blogosphere is having a field day. They satirize the charedim as Neanderthal idiots. Here is an example from Dov Bear:
“Let me see if I have this straight. Adulterers, thieves, wife-beaters, and idol-worshipers like the Pope are all allowed to touch the Wall and everything is fine. Nothing happens. But if gay people touch the Wall, God will be rendered completely powerless, and He will be unable to prevent the disaster it will cause.”

The second complaint is that the charedi case would be more convincing if they were equally zealous in pursuing issues such as sexual harassment, women trafficking, pedophilia and discrimination against women in the rabbinical courts. For example, they have never said boo about Israeli trafficking in women. I have never read a sermon on the evils caused by the presence of thousands of prostitutes in the Holy Land. They wake up when homosexuality is mentioned.

Despite these justified misgivings, I want to say something politically incorrect, which I nevertheless believe to be true. The charedim were a 100% correct on the substantive issue. There ought not to be a gay festival and parade in Jerusalem, not in August, not in the fall, never. I agree gays have the right to march. If they had any brains, they wouldn’t exercise this right. It is not a good thing to engage in provocative, unessential behavior that drives other Jews into paroxysms of rage and disgust. All gay people, including the leather s&m crowd, the cross dressers and the biker lesbians can exhibit their lifestyle anywhere and everywhere, but not in Jerusalem. The issue is not the rights of gays to cohabit, or any other basic civil right. Gays march in Tel Aviv with no serious problems. I believe what I said is true even if it is totally permissible to lead an openly gay life. Furthermore, I believe the existence of wall to wall homophobia in the charedi world doesn’t change the equation. The gays shouldn’t march in Jerusalem. They shouldn’t march in the Vatican. They should take a pass on Mecca and Qom. The rest of the world is fine.

Gays are just a small part of a culture war being waged gleefully by both the secular and religious. The secular are giggling how the gays are infuriating the Charedim. Secular Israelis are so very angry at charedim; anything that puts Ultra Orthodox Jews over the top is a positive. The other side is not much better. A gay parade in Jerusalem would be an opportunity to project onto some marginal outsider their own repressed anxieties. There is nothing to fear in verbally abusing gays, since Hashem is obviously homophobic, and happy they are doing this. What can be better? In venting, they are God’s Cossacks.

I have a bone to pick with the Orthodox liberal bloggers. They take comments by the most idiotic, charedi yahoo, tear it apart usually with sarcasm, and think they have defeated the UO position and scored a victory for reason and modernity. It is not so simple. If reason is your goal, you have to consider all serious arguments slowly and dispassionately. I don’t believe reason and truth is the goal. It’s all a form of guerrilla warfare, shteching, needling, turning the knife, laughing, derision. It is part of the secular Israeli battle against the charedim. It is also a tool in the Modern Orthodox kulturkampf against the Ultra Orthodox. If the charedim are anti-gay, and the MO bloggers who make fun of charedim are anti(anti-gay), I am an anti-anti(anti-gay) , which regretfully doesn’t make me a charedi. I don’t think of myself as being homophobic, and I make every effort not to be. But if siding with the charedim is an example of hatred of homosexuals, I would rather take my chances with that sin, than be in favor of infuriating the edah hacharedis, the holy and homophobic way of life in Jerusalem.

Postscript: There is a new movie out called ‘Keep Not Silent’ that portrays Ultra Orthodox Israeli lesbians, (in street jargon Orthodykes), who struggle to reconcile their sexuality and their commitment to an Orthodox Jewish life. According to the current Tikkun magazine, the movie presents a nuanced and complex picture of what appears to be an irreconcilable conflict. The 3 women portrayed in the movie present different ways of coping with what is a very difficult problem. I have not seen the movie, but I venture to speculate their situation would not improve one iota with a gay pride parade in Jerusalem.


At 10:41 AM, Anonymous shael siegel said...

Why are you having difficulty with the gay community parading in Jerusalem Either they have legitimacy or not. If they do than what difference does it make where they parade. The Haredim ought not intimidate anyone. They've gotten away with it for too long. During the years I lived in Jerusalem I struggled against they're hostility towards the chiloni community. They protested the Cinemeteque being open on Friday night-and they would have had their way had it not been for the vocal chiloni community who are no less legitimate in the way they celebrate Shabbat.Ditto for the gay community. What sayeth you?
by the way have a look at the piece I wrote on it in answer to Yaffa Ganz (my cousin)on my blog

At 10:57 AM, Anonymous shael siegel said...

Why are you finding difficulty with the gay oarade in Jerusalem. Either they are a legitimate life style or they aren't. if they are than why not be consistent. Surely you don't believe that the Haredi community ought to have a straglehold over Jerusalem. Years ago they used the same intimidation tactics on the chilonim who wanted to keep the Cinemeteque open on Friday night. We persisted and it stayed open. The days of the playground bully is over. What sayeth you? By the way, I wrote a piece on this theme in answer to an article which appeared last month in the Jerusalem Poast absolutely bashing the gays. Let me know what you think.

At 12:47 PM, Blogger evanstonjew said...

Pavolya. It is irrelevant whether homosexuals are acting rightly or wrongly. Even if their activities are wrong, they deserve respect in virtue of their dignity as human beings. People who violate the Sabbath may be doing something wrong, they still deserve respect. Therefore, homophobia, in the sense of open hatred and vituperative comments, is wrong. I argue that the feelings of the Jerusalem charedim ought to be respected because of their importance and significance for the Jewish people. An analogy would be that it is right and good to be tolerant, even of a person who is intolerant. The Cinemeteque case is different. In that situation, real rights were being violated to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In the gay case, though it exists, the right is not significant because gays can march anywhere. Between the Arabs and the Orthodox, over 80% of Jerusalem will be offended. I read your piece (6/26/06), and I urge everyone interested in this issue to read it as well.

At 5:34 AM, Blogger LitaLives said...

Although I agree with your position, I sm somewhat surprised by it. I also find it interesting that you feel the need to bash on the MO. I would imagine the great majority of MO disagree with the gay parade, but still feel for the sake of Sholom Bayit it is better to allow the parade than have violence & sinas chinam among Jews.

As to the MO quoting the most off- the-wall chardi; didn't you do that just yesterday re. the jerk from Lakewood? (PS- I tried the link but the Forwards removed the article).


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