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Parades and Holiness

Is Rabbi Stern saying that the gay-rights activists should have known better than to plan their march in Jerusalem, or is he saying that the gay-rights parade organizers should have shown more consideration to the ultra-Orthodox, by not planning their march anywhere in Jerusalem?

It seems as if Rabbi Stern is suggesting that the gay-rights parade activists deserve part of the blame for the violent nature of ultra-Orthodox protests. I couldn’t disagree more.

If they were marching through Mea Shearim or another ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, I would agree the parade was being needlessly inconsiderate. But, as far as I understand, they are marching in the center of town, culminating (if they are following last year’s route) at Liberty Bell Park, right in the heart of Jerusalem’s tourist district.


I am sure Rabbi Stern and I would agree that Jerusalem is a holy city. As rabbis, we also would probably agree that it is a shame to see cafes open on Shabbat in Jerusalem. But it is precisely the kind of coercive and destructive behavior the ulra-Orthodox are taking around the parade that drives so many young Israelis from the beauty of our religious traditions.

What a different message could be given if haredi (the ultra-Orthodox) rabbinic leaders called upon their followers to show ahavat Yisrael (love of one’s fellow Jews), perhaps by launching a campaign to invite a gay person to Shabbat dinner. That would do something productive in furthering the spread of religious observance throughout the Jewish state and open a dialogue to help each side see the human face, and pain, both sides are experiencing.


Jerusalem is a holy city. However, my idea of holiness is found not only in Shabbat and tzniut (modesty), which I observe very differently than do the haredim, but in respecting the image of God in people, especially those with whom I may disagree, even vehemently.

Jerusalem is the spiritual and political capital of the entire Jewish people, not just the haredim. To abandon our claim to this city would be tragic. That is precisely why the gay pride parade should take place in Jerusalem. We may disagree about whether or not Jewish law permits gay relationships, but that is no excuse for endangering life, as did the haredi violence this week. The Jewish law I study does not permit endangering others in this way.


This leads me to my next point. If Israel is to have any moral legitimacy in arguing against violence perpetrated by fundamentalist Muslims, then Israel needs to maintain the rule of law within its own borders. The ultra-Orthodox can march all they want in protest, peacefully. But the Israeli government should crack down swiftly and decisively against these violent protests.

There cannot be a place for this kind of activity in a state that models for the world how religion and democracy can live harmoniously together. The values of democracy and the equality of all people comes from our Torah. This message is one of the ways Israel can serve as a light unto the nations. But we do not serve that cause when Israel enables such dangerous and unethical behavior by allowing it to spread.


I totally disagree with Rabbi Stern. The gay parade has every right to be in Jerusalem. I say this not because I am liberal, but because I deeply believe in the values of our Torah and our covenant with God. We should remember that the Second Temple fell because of sinat hinam (hatred between Jews), which is precisely what the ultra-Orthodox are showing to the gay activitists.

–Rabbi Susan Grossman

Comments read comments(9)
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connie stringfellow

posted November 8, 2006 at 8:59 am

I don’t think the gays had any rights. Even Sodom and Gamora was distroyed for it.

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Anissa K. Fogel

posted November 8, 2006 at 12:48 pm

I totally disagree with the ultra-Orthodox using violence and offensive acts as a means of protest as they so often do. They throw stones at women who wear pants in their neighborhoods and feces on women rabbis who hold services at the Kotel. They teach intolerance and hatred to their children instead of the love and compassion for fellow Jews as stated in the Torah. That being said, I think they should peacefully protest the gay pride parade in Jerusalem on Friday (Yes, I am a gay rights activist in the United States.) I think the parade should not be held in Jerusalem but rather in Tel Aviv where it makes more sense socially and politically.

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marian neudel

posted November 8, 2006 at 4:55 pm

The purpose of a gay rights parade in Jerusalem is different from that of a gay rights parade in Tel Aviv. The parade sponsors have the right to do either one, depending on their current purpose. The haredim have a right to protest in either or both places. They don’t have a right not to be offended. They don’t have a right to respond to offense with violence. Enough already.

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posted November 9, 2006 at 9:38 pm

B”H Any Haredi (or any Jew) who throws stones is committing a sin. Same goes for people in Brooklyn. Throwing stones creates a bad name for Jews who observe Torah. Yehi ratzon that no Jew ever throw a stone at another Jew ever again for any reason. Moshiach Now…Yossel

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posted November 12, 2006 at 1:12 am

I completely agree that Gays should have the right to march in Jerusalem without being attacked, but let’s not use the Holocaust to beat up Jews with. Ironically some on the left were organizing a boycott against the rally as part of their overall boycott of Israel.

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posted November 12, 2006 at 3:18 pm

after all the browbeating on tolerance, the reaction really is quite amazing when you think about it.

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posted November 13, 2006 at 6:23 am

BTW, the sages say that Sodom & Gommorah were the affluent of their time, whose self-righteous indignation and unbridled hatred for the poor is what got them smoked. Their method of abuse toward anyone not able or willing to demonstrate substantial affluence earned them the reputation they were looking for: if you’re poor, don’t come here. Lot was welcomed and given a position within the city, never abused… why? Because he was the rich nephew of a very wealthy man.

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Rabbi Shael Siegel

posted November 17, 2006 at 10:26 am

The issue isn’t whether gays should be able to convene or parade in the streets of Jerusalem. The issue isn’t whether the haredi community ought to tolerate this kind of presence. Those ought to be forgone conclusions: The gay community has rights in a free and democatic country, but that extends to the haredi commnity as well who have a right to demonstrate peacefully.The issue is the irresponsible and shameful leadership of the Chief Rabbinate. By referring to the Gay community as the “lowest of people”, the Chief Rabbinate manipulated the haredi street into an angry mob. Incredulously, they are responsible for sint hinam! In truth I’m not surprised. Both Metzger and Amar have questionable backgrounds which border on alleged sexual abuse and violence.

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posted November 20, 2006 at 1:26 pm

Israel has been my home since 1971. I lived in Jerusalem for 22 years of those 36 years.No one stops Gays from parading in every Israeli city, so why choose Jerusalem, a city considered holy by the 3 major faiths? As a Conservative Jew, I too find that Gays insisting on parading in Jerusalem to be hillul haShem. Just keep in mind, that in Israel, Jews cannot pray on the Temple Mt., the holiest of Jewish sites, because the police consider this a provocation against Moslems. I haven’t heard one liberal object to denying Jews the right to pray at one of their holiest sites. So why take umbrage when the religious community feels that Gays marching through Jerusalem is a provocation. True, no decent person condones the violence of some Haredim, but a bit of sensitivity toward Jewish values, sensitivities and feelings, wouldn’t hurt. Let me tell you, I have seen Gay Pride parades in Tel Aviv and the less said the better. Ugh!!

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