There needs to be more color

I’m in Liberty Park, Jerusalem. I’m feeling embarrassed to be a religious Jew. It’s an uneasy feeling to exist in the most spiritual city in the world, the most Jewish place in the world, and feel so pained, so heartbroken by the identity I hold. The full moon reminds me that tomorrow is Tu’ B Av, the holiday of love and rebirth. A few hours ago, six marchers in the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade were stabbed by a fellow brother, an ultra-religious Jew protesting the celebration of gay love. No more than four days after we mourn the destruction of our Temple, the destruction of our unity, we prove that we are stubbornly opposed to learning our lesson. We go out of our way to hate instead of love as we are commanded to do. And then we take this hatred and pierce in violence. And then we displace the blame and continue the cycle. And then we sit at a family reunion and refuse to speak to each other. And our children won’t even look each other in the eyes, let alone attend the reunion. 

The Hebrew word “Ravgoni” perfectly means colorful as well as varied. The rainbow flags frame the streets of Keren Hayesod. The painting itself is of young individuals in relatively modest attire. Colorful stickers of “Love others as yourself” and “ahavah” strut around while rainbow flags wave back and forth. Very, very colorful indeed. I look around in search of the varied and dumbfounded, I can only count four kippot and three skirts. I scan the political signs only finding Meretz and Joint Arab List. I watch the teens of Lehava, the extreme anti-Jewish connections with non-Jews group, protesting the march and whimper, discouraged by the lessons we are teaching our children. Who decided that homosexual sex is the main sin in the Torah and merits a death-match? 

I browse through the narrow range of ages and even slimmer variation of nationalities. The beat of the drums carry me along as I pray that it’s not just the classic flamboyant person cheering on friends. Where’s the variation to this rainbow? Where’s the Likud and Beyit Hayehudi kippot srugot next to the elderly same-sex couple? Where’s the random observer on the street corner joining in? Where are the Christians and Muslims and Druzim? Where are the Sfardim and Ethopians and Yeminites? Where’s the diversity of our family celebrating the idea that we are all created in His image?

The parade feeds into a rally of spoken word poetry and demands to be accepted….The only problem is that the audience already agrees. The leaders of the secular youth group share their coming out stories and receive applause from others who have done the same. But wouldn’t it be interesting to share those stories to others who haven’t experienced it? Wouldn’t it be nice for Bnei Akiva leaders to wave rainbow Israeli flags and hear these siblings that never were introduced at the family reunion? I imagine the dream of variation in the colorful assembly. 

I sigh in relief when Rav Benny Lau is called to the microphone. Whispers beside me mention that this is the first time that they have even seen a rabbi at a Pride Parade. His speech is one of apology. He apologizes on behalf of the people of the Torah for the hideous attack. He expresses his regret for the repulsive actions. He shares his appreciation of the togetherness and ceaseless strength of the Pride community and cheers on their unrelenting love for one another.

Next on the stage is Yesh Atid member, Zehorit Sorek, a religious lesbian who tells everyone how proud she is to be here. Only later after googling her, do I learn of her amazing strides in advancement of the Orthodox-gay community. Why isn’t the secular crowd told of Havruta, an organization for Orthodox gay men and Bar Kol, for religious lesbians? Why don’t I see JGY signs, and international organization for supporting LGBT Jews? How beautiful would it be for The Pride Minyan to share a Teffiah or the Orthodox LGBT youth groups to share their existence? 

I check the news to see is there is any news about the victim’s status post surgery. My heart drops reading that the 17-year-old girl is in critical condition and I see photos of the suspected perpetrator, matching the looks of the man who stabbed three marchers in 2005.  He was just released from jail three weeks ago and after declaring his obligation to stop this march just days ago, I can’t believe the police didn’t stop him from running into the parade. He was able to stab six people, one at a time before being tackled to the ground. Why couldn’t we stop him sooner? Why is everyone now condemning this action like that’s enough?

There’s so much blame to place and faults to recognize. Jerusalem Municipality should have granted a larger budget for the mostly privately-funded parade. The police should have prevented or at least halted this incursion. Lehava, the extreme anti-Jewish connections with non-Jews group needs to focus on loving all Jews. The religious should have showed more support. The secular should have been more inclusive. The right-wing parties should have made an appearance. The list of condemnations on this pre-Tu B’Av parade beckons me to reassess my goals in blaming.

“Ravgoni” is kind of like a kaleidoscope. Twisting around the polychromatic cylinder, I watch the light come through. Every movement of my touch changes the arrangement completely. Same colors, different depiction. Same colors, new outlook. Swiveling the kaleidoscope, I can see the need for improvements while still appreciating steps it will take to arrive. I turn my perspective from embarrassment to involvement. I rotate my view from pain to planning, pledging that next year’s Pride Parade will look a little more varied, a little more Jewishly diverse, and a lot more honorable of representing the beautifully strong community of Pride.

About the Author
Talya Herring, originally from California, made Aliyah to a Moshav in the Negev for a year of her National Service at Aleh Negev, a rehabilitative village for people with severe disabilities and then worked as a tour guide for her second year of National Service. Now as a law student, she writes her blog to connect her evolving thoughts with friends and family, inspire ideas of self-achievement, and celebrate pride in values.
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