Virtual Talmud

The gay pride parade planned to take place in Jerusalem on Friday has created a fierce debate over the limits of freedom of expression in Israel. Israel’s extreme haredi (ultra-Orthodox) groups are threatening violence–they’ve been staging violent demonstrations for weeks in anticipation, setting fires, even assaulting police–while the GLBT community continues to stick to its guns, ignoring threats and police warnings. Oyyy!!

Both groups are wrong for obvious reasons. C’mon! A rally in Jerusalem is not going to make anybody be more accepting of the GLBT’s only going to breed more social anger. But the violent haredim are more wrong. They continue to be blind to the notion of countries having laws. Just because people say or do something they disagree with does not give them the right to threaten violence.

That said, I would agree with writer Yair Sheleg who, in a very incisive op-ed published in Haaretz, pointed out the hypocrisy of the

“liberal stance [that] is prepared to recognize the rights of Orthodox Jews to live as they choose in their homes, synagogues, and neighborhoods, but denies them the right to interfere in the general public domain that “belongs” only to liberals. That gives rise to repeated arguments regarding billboards, commerce on Shabbat, and also the parade. That is a stand the religious public, particularly the national-religious one, cannot nor should accept in principle. Not only would such a viewpoint possibly preclude the participation of national-religious Jews in the general Israeli arena (we would later ask ourselves why they isolated themselves “like the ultra-Orthodox”): It also transforms the liberal stance that frequently opposes ultra-Orthodox rigidity into another form of zealous Orthodoxy. “

Instead, argues Sheleg:

“the liberal approach must…. maintain its focus on reality and real people rather than abstract principles: in other words, the determined battle for the rights of same-sex couples to maintain relationships, but not necessarily the inflexible demand to demonstrate that right in every street in Israel. The fact–emphasized by those who support the parade–that ultra-Orthodox Jews did not always oppose previous similar parades in Jerusalem, actually serves the ultra-Orthodox position. It proves that the provocative aspect of the parade, rather than the event itself, is the bone of contention.”

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