One crazy criminal does not define the ultra-Orthodox community and does not define Israelis in general. He only defines himself — one crazy man who happens to be ultra-Orthodox and who is a violent criminal. I am saddened by all those who express shame and guilt and who declare whole sectors of Israeli society homophobic and intolerant.
I am NOT ashamed and I do NOT feel guilty. I AM angry at the police and parole services for not doing their jobs. Had this crazy violent man not been allowed anywhere near the Gay Pride March, you same people would all be praising Israel as the wonderful tolerant flower that it is in the killing fields of the Middle East, at least as far as LGBT human rights go, and you would probably give all the credit to yourselves.
Had this one crazy man not shattered the joyful procession of love, the open expression of the freedom that Israelis have to seek love in their own different ways, you may have noticed how much things have changed over the years and expressed your appreciation instead of your scorn.
It is clear that a short three decades ago there was no way there would be a Gay Pride March in Israel, never mind in Jerusalem! It is clear that decades ago — far less than that, actually — there is no way a member, much less leader, of a religious party would say that, while he opposes kiddushin for gay couples, he supports the individual rights of gay couples to live together, to get tax benefits, etc. Instead of blaming him for his supposed homophobia because he doesn’t believe gay people should make their (legitimate) commitments under the huppah, you should be remarking about the place where he does support diversity and free choice. Such movement forward has only been possible because of the public debates and ongoing willingness to engage among all those with opposing beliefs.
You should make note of how the debate helps people re-examine their own assumptions. You still come down hard on Smotrich, who has since apologized for his part in organizing the horrid March of Beasts, claiming youthful ignorance. (Have you never done something you were later ashamed of? Luckily for you, it probably wasn’t something so publicly visible and utterly memorable as that march.)
You should be amazed that actors, singers, politicians are growing bolder and bolder and coming out of the closet on public TV. We are not a society frozen in the past. We are constantly evolving. And we are evolving because even those who think homosexuality is a sin have been willing, albeit sometimes very reluctantly, to take part in the debate. And that is no small thing!
When you turn the debate ugly — when you blame the right in general, and Bennett in particular, for inciting this crazy violent man — you have simply lost me. That is the end of fruitful debate.
There is a photo posted on Facebook showing young Ultra-Orthodox men handing out Popsicles to participants at the rally in honour of Shira Banki. Have you seen it? Tell me: who incited them to hand out cooling Popsicles on that hot summer evening to youth from a community that couldn’t be more different from their own? Perhaps it was Jerusalem’s Chief Rabbi, who visited the wounded and clearly stated that the stabbing is against the Torah. Or perhaps it was Degel HaTorah MK Moshe Gafni, who condemned the violence? Will you make note of that, or will you dismiss it as unrepresentative?