To my LGBTQ friends and family, to all the gay residents of Jerusalem:
I’m sorry. I have failed you.
I saw the rainbow flags adorning King George Street, and heard there was a parade, but I had a million reasons why I couldn’t go: University papers, invites from friends, and errands I’d long been putting off, all coalesced into a pile of pressure I had no desire to add to.
I didn’t consider the parade important enough to squeeze into a busy Thursday night.
For that, I am sorry.
I knew that there was no gay marriage in Israel, however, I viewed that as a side-effect of the lack of civil marriage options, not as a result of an attempt to discriminate based on sexuality. After all, gay people can become legally recognized common law partners, or can get married abroad and then have that marriage recognized by the State of Israel – in other words, they have the same marriage rights (or lack thereof) as any other couple that the rabbinate refuses to marry. Israeli laws regarding adoption and extension of spousal or couple privilege (for example: being entitled to a free ticket for your partner if you work at El Al), to the best of my knowledge, do not differentiate based on sexual orientation.
So I thought that, from a gay rights (or perhaps more accurately: human rights) perspective, while there was work to be done, the situation was not dire. I’m sorry for my underestimation.
I’m sorry for not being adequately attuned to your pain.
I have a number of gay friends in Jerusalem; We go to the same synagogues and eat at each other’s houses on shabbat. Many of those friends are out of the closet, and some are in serious relationships. To refuse to acknowledge their relationships, or to make a snide comment about their sexuality would be considered a major faux pas in my social circle.
So it’s easy to forget that outside the bubble of my community, there might be places -even places in my own country, even places in my own city – where gay people are not welcome. It is easy to forget because I don’t have to worry about people giving me strange looks when I walk down the street with my husband, and I never have to worry that some people might try to harm me if they find out about my deepest desires — that they might try to hurt me for being who I am.
So when I saw the flags and heard about the parade, I thought that it was a nice idea, and was glad it was happening, but I didn’t see a particular need for it. I didn’t understand there are places in Jerusalem where gay people don’t feel like they can safely stand up and be who they are. I might have been more likely to go had the event been advertised as a march in order to pressure the Knesset into passing marriage legislation, but that’s not how it was portrayed: It was billed as a pride event — and while I could understand my friends’ desire to be proud of their identities, I did not understand why it was important for me to stand with them, and be proud to.
Then I heard the news. Six people stabbed at the parade. And I realized that no, being safe while standing up as openly gay isn’t something that can be taken for granted, even in my own city.
And I thought that if I want to make it safer, I have to say, I’m going to stand here too.
As a religious Jew, I cannot sit idly by while my sisters and brothers blood is being shed.
Tonight, my brothers and sisters were hurt for being who they are, and I sat by.
I ask your forgiveness. I am sorry.