It isn't the parade that's the problem

By SHIRA LEIBOWITZ SCHMIDT
November 8, 2006 02:04

The struggle is over which groups get to create our culture and define it.

4 minute read.



Judge Aaron Barak, former chief justice of the Israel Supreme Court, got an A+ on his report card. His prot g and current chief justice Dorit Beinisch also got an A+. But Judge Abd el-Rahman Zouabi, an Arab member of the court, got an F-. I discovered these report cards on the Internet when, in the wake of the High Court of Justice discussions on the proposed homosexual parade, I put into an Internet search engine the terms: "Israel High Court of Justice - homosexual issues." This led to a Web site that grades judges on how favorable they are to homosexuals in their rulings. Despite the daily headlines about Jerusalem's gay parade, neither the parade nor its route is really the central issue. The root of the controversy goes back to 1994, when Barak led a hyperactive High Court of Justice in forcing El Al Airlines to grant the boyfriend of steward Jonathan Danilowitz a free ticket, as El Al does for the spouses of employees. This decision led to a host of other decisions granting equal benefits to same-gender couples. IN MAY 2000 Judges Dorit Beinisch and Dalia Dorner voted in favor of recognizing Nicole Berner-Kadish, a lesbian, as the adoptive mother of the son of her same-sex partner, hence the Web site's "A+" grade for both Beinisch and Dorner. The only vote cast against this redefinition of the traditional family was by Judge Abd el-Rahman Zouabi who, as a minority of one, explained, "This is not a family" and thus earned an "F-." In the past dozen years in one decision after another, High Court and district courts judges have ruled in favor of homosexual plaintiffs. In January 1997 the Tel Aviv District Court ordered the Israel Defense Forces to recognize Adir Steiner as the common-law spouse of the late Col. Doron Maisel and to grant him benefits as if he were an IDF widow. And more recently, in May 2006, Jerusalem district judge Judith Tsur ordered the city to pay NIS 350,000 to the organizers of the homosexual Open House for promotional activities and a previous parade. With so many decisions against the traditional family, it is surprising that those in favor of traditional marriage and family have been so quiescent. OURS IS not the first legal system to begin legalizing same-sex relationships. Already in antediluvian times people were drawing up contracts between men and men, and men and animals. With deep psychological insight the Midrash points out that God did not regret his Creation even when, in the era of Noah, homosexuality and bestiality took place. He did not bring the Flood upon the world because homosexual couples conducted parades. Rather, the last straw was when they drew up contracts conferring the veneer of normality on aberrant behavior. The Midrash rabba observes: "The generation of the Flood was not blotted out from the world until they wrote marriage deeds for males and males, and males and beasts, thus fully legalizing such practices." Jewish law outlaws stealing, but that does not make Halacha kleptophobic. Jewish law outlaws sodomy, but that does not make Halacha homophobic. People who engage in forbidden activities are not demonized. But although there is no demonization, neither is there legitimization. AS ORTHODOX Rabbi Aharon Feldman has written, Judaism looks negatively at homosexual activity, but not at the homosexual nature. Whatever the source of this nature, whether it is genetic or acquired, is immaterial. This nature in no way diminishes or affects the Jewishness of a homosexual. Although it is a serious sin, all humans by definition have spiritual shortcomings and this is why opportunities for repentance were given to us. The statement in Genesis "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helpmate opposite him" - ezer kenegdo" implies that it diminishes a man or a woman's humanity to be alone. Rabbi J.D. Soloveitchik writes in Family Redeemed that "the ezer kenegdo, the helpmate, stands not alongside but opposite Adam. Only in opposition does man find help. Loneliness can only be ameliorated if lonely man meets lonely woman. Man is redeemed from loneliness not alongside but opposite an existential antagonist." For those who cannot build a "relationship opposite an existential antagonist" of the opposite sex, life can truly be lonely. But there is no place whatsoever in this view for demonization of or violence toward those who engage in same sex behaviors. From this view, marriage is not a personal, private relationship but a social and civic institution with profound public and societal responsibilities, obligations, and consequences. That is why every social group through the ages has regulated who can marry whom under what circumstances. Social groups confer benefits (not "rights") on marriage that they do not give to other relationships precisely because of its profound impact on society, especially on the rearing of children. THE TRADITIONAL public feels the dice are loaded against it in the courts. In a way, the passionate awareness and outspokenness of the haredi, religious Zionist, religious non-Zionist, Muslim, and Christian sectors can be seen as a positive development, and a shift from relative quietism to an active interest in the public domain. The parade, qua parade, is not the central issue. The underlying root of the controversy is a struggle over which groups get to make meaning for us all, to create our culture and define it. Will the values of the secular courts trump traditional Jewish values? The writer is a translator and is affiliated with the Haredi College in Jerusalem.


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