Religious LGBTQ youth protest far right Noam in the streets of Jerusalem

LGBTQ youth stood next to Noam booths in Jerusalem with rainbow flags and signs reading “Love your fellow as yourself” in Hebrew and rainbow colors.

LGBTQ youth protest against far right Noam party at Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem (photo credit: Courtesy)
LGBTQ youth protest against far right Noam party at Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Religious Jewish LGBTQ youth went out to the streets of Jerusalem to protest against the anti-LGBT far right Noam party last week, as the party set up booths around the city to hand out pamphlets and campaign material discussing their platform.
Noam is an extremist party established by radical elements from the hard-line wing of the religious-Zionist community – specifically, close associates and allies of Rabbi Zvi Yisrael Tau, president of Yeshivat Har Hamor.
The party set up booths around the country manned by activists handing out pamphlets explaining Noam’s plan to make Israel “a normal nation” with anti-LGBTQ and anti-reform movement slogans.
LGBTQ youth stood next to Noam booths in Jerusalem with rainbow flags and signs reading “Love your fellow as yourself” in Hebrew and rainbow colors.
“It’s impossible to leave your house without seeing signs saying you’re not normal,” said Ido Zangen, the coordinator of the Beit Midrash in the Israel Gay Youth movement and an initiator of the protests, to The Jerusalem Post.
“We saw these signs and activists calling us not normal day after day and we finally understood that we can’t be silent with this. We can’t be silent with this dehumanization. This campaign simply is dehumanization of LGBTQ people.”
Noam’s slogan stating that LGBTQ people are not normal is the first step of stripping away the humanity of LGBTQ people, explained Ido.
“For three days we stood in the [Mahane Yehuda] shuk and just stood right next to Noam’s central booth quietly with the signs and pride flags to show that we’re here,” said Ido. “The LGBTQ community is here, stands up for its rights and isn’t scared to look people who call them not normal in the eye and to tell them that we’re here and we’re bringing messages of love.”
The group of religious LGBTQ youth received mixed responses. While most of the passersby responded positively or, at least, not negatively, there were some people who cursed, some who even spit, and even some who threatened them. At one point, someone even pushed one of them and became violent.
“A lot of people talked with us with respect and well wishes and even many of those who argued with us were pleasant and didn’t speak in a negative way. It was also nice to show Noam that most of the public sees us as normal, equal, positive people unlike them and talked to us and not them,” said Ido.
The protesters wanted to show LGBTQ youth that they haven’t been abandoned. “LBGTQ youth experienced a lot of distress in Noam’s campaign. They were afraid to walk the streets. Every time they walked into Noam activists, they felt a lot of pressure and anxious and we were there to help them stay calm. We also wanted to show Jerusalemites that they’ve had a campaign of dehumanization flowing through their streets and they haven’t done anything about it.”
When asked why he feels like Noam, a party which is not expected to pass the election threshold, needs to be protested against, Ido responded that it’s not a matter of whether they pass the election threshold or not; a campaign that dehumanizes people must be protested against.
“Imagine that in European nations there was a campaign with the slogan ‘a normal nation in our land.’ It would be clear to everyone that ‘normal’ in this case means ‘not Jewish.’ How would you feel? How would you react? Campaigns like this are dangerous and must be responded to immediately,” explained Ido.
“Noam is not just some insignificant thing for religious LGBTQ youth. Many of us have friends and family who volunteer in Noam and cause a lot of distress that leads to many LGBTQ being afraid to go out. Noam isn’t a joking matter. Whether it passes the election threshold is unimportant. What is important is that right now, they are conducting a dehumanization campaign against LGBTQ people and we cannot be quiet with this.”
The beit midrash that Ido coordinates is made up of dozens of LGBTQ youth between 14-23 years-old who come together and learn Torah. The classes are organized and taught by the youth themselves. About 20-30 people attend each meeting and all together around 80 youth have attended the beit midrash at some point in the past year.
For Ido, the beit midrash is important because it represents the overlap and connection of his religious identity and his LGBTQ identity that are both important to him.
“I’m very proud of my Jewish identity and my Jewish roots and I’m very proud of my LGBTQ identity and I’m very proud to head the beit midrash and to show LGBTQ youth that they can combine the two sides and that there’s a lot of common ground between the LGBTQ identity and Judaism,” explained Ido. “You can be both LGBTQ and Jewish. You can even be religious and LGBTQ. Our way is not the way of hate.”
Recently, the beit midrash released a book titled “Lev Avot” (The Heart of our Forefathers) consisting of pieces written by members of the beit midrash on various parts of the Jewish book Pirkei Avot that discusses morals and wisdom from 2000 years ago. The pieces included thoughts, personal connections and poems about the various teachings in Pirkei Avot. It is one of the few Jewish religious books written by LGBTQ people and over 150 copies have been sold.