Who does Jerusalem belong to?
At some level, that’s the question at the heart of the conflict between participants in Friday’s planned gay pride parade and haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish protestors. An ad campaign planned by the Orthodox Agudath Israel group proclaims, “No one sensitive to the import of holiness, no one who faces the Holy City each day in prayer, can suffer the thought of the planned event in silence.” This language tries to claim Jerusalem as the exclusive province of religious Jews, even to the point of accepting hatred and violence if that’s what it takes to reinforce the claim.
Those who support the parade, on the other hand, see Jerusalem as a city that belongs to all Jews, even those whom the Chief Rabbinate has reportedly labeled “an abominated minority” and “the lowest of people”–namely Israel’s GLBTQ community (given some of the inflammatory language that has been directed at Jews throughout history, these are particularly disturbing charges to hear Jews leveling at other Jews).
For the parade’s organizers, it is important to hold the event in that city precisely because their goal is to assert their legitimacy–not a conditional legitimacy that exists in certain cities and certain places, but an unconditional legitimacy that accepts–or at least tolerates–people of their sexual orientation.
For Rabbi Stern, it appears a given that the parade is an unacceptable intrusion into the life of Jerusalem (even as he rightly denounces threats of violence against the marchers). His approach makes sense only if Jerusalem belongs to one group of people, only if there is one kosher set of ideas or opinions about what is legitimate.
But Judaism has never been that way, and Jerusalem isn’t that way. Jerusalem isn’t a symbol frozen in time any more than Judaism is. It’s a living city, with real issues and real people–people who have to learn to live together without resorting to demonization and sinat chinam (baseless hatred).
No one owns Jerusalem, no one owns Judaism. Those who resort to violence to assert the holiness of their claims only undermine the legitimacy they try to assert.