The dual response of the Religious Zionism to LGBTQ+ issues
In contrast to the parade in Tel Aviv, which true to its name has giant floats, music, and giant concerts by known musicians, the Jerusalem Pride Parade has always been regarded as more of a protest than a parade. This is precisely the reason I usually avoid the celebration in Tel Aviv, and even more so the reason I feel so compelled to march in Jerusalem every year.
Why is this year different from all other years? Ma Nishtana?
The actions of the current government have inspired two reactions: the first, indignation and protest. The proposed (and revised) judicial reform widely discussed has brought about incredible protests, bringing together citizens of all walks of life. In the early days of the protests, many articles discussed a surprising presence at the Jerusalem protests, prominent figures from the Religious Zionism community – educators, spiritual leaders, and congregants alike. The current government has motivated the liberal-religious to brush off its picket signs, and prove the limits to their patience towards weakening the courts.
The second reaction has been strong support, by those that feel that this government holds the promise of actualizing many of their long held dreams that are negated by the courts and international community.
These two reactions can be clearly observed when it comes to gay rights. In the past, the NOAM party was looked down upon, received little political attention, their statements discarded and forgotten by leaders of the Religious Zionism community. Their newfound power in the current government has dredged up old arguments, emboldening their conservative ideas about sexuality, gender, and family. Returning to the public discourse, the religious community has been forced to confront these.
Many of the same Religious Zionism activists that have taken to the streets in the name of democracy and defending human rights have transferred these sentiments in regards to the opinions held by Avi Maoz and others that stand with the NOAM party. Appalled, many attended the Pride Parade in Jerusalem to display their support of the LGBTQ+ community and to denounce the homophobic ideas upheld by the government.
The other reaction to these ideas could be seen across the fence – protesters against the Pride Parade, condemning those marching to Hell and perpetuating the model of a “classic” family, which must include a father and mother in their book. Many rabbis that would not usually have gay rights emblazoned across their chests, but would not condemn those that subscribe to a different life path, have been forced to sign on to statements drafted by MK Maoz in order to maintain their status of leadership and satisfy their patron establishments.
Contradicting those that have branded the current government as the face of Religious Zionism, (with known figures like MK Bezalel Smotrich and MK Orit Strook), it seems that the great number of marchers wearing Kippot to the Pride Parade begs to differ – there has not been a verdict. Gay rights have split the community to proponents of democracy, human rights and liberalism, and enforcers of a far more conservative doctrine, in a confrontation it has not required to endure until recently.
Marching through the streets of downtown felt revolutionary, or at the very least meaningful. It felt as though we were conveying a message directly towards the halls of the government by standing together, religious and secular people, members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies.
It is my dearest hope that more and more people in religious communities will open their hearts, and that others in those communities will recognize the acceptance and feel embraced by their neighbors.
Le’Shana Ha’Baa Be’Yerushalayim Ha’Bnuya