Religious homosexuals join the march for Gay Pride

Google Israel backs observant gay groups; Havruta: "The fact that Google approached us is proof that it is no longer possible to ignore us."

Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade 521 (photo credit: Yoni Cohen)
Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade 521
(photo credit: Yoni Cohen)
Homosexual religious groups will be represented in a special float at Friday’s Tel Aviv Gay Pride March – a reflection of their growing prominence in both the homosexual and religious communities they come from.
The lesbian Bat Kol group, ‘Proud Minyan,’ religious groups from within the Israeli Gay Youth Organization, and Havruta will all be in the march.
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But, while in 2010 they were represented by a private car blaring hassidic music, this year they received the endorsement of Google Israel, which has sponsored a truck for the groups.
“The fact that Google approached us is proof that it is no longer possible to ignore us,” said Havruta spokesman Daniel Jonas, of his organization and the others in a statement.
“We are involved, influential and, first and foremost, serve as a bridge between two extremes that in the not-distant past seemed distant and irreconcilable: the religious and gay communities,” Jonas added.
“We are aware of the controversy around participating in the march, but also of the great importance of it to members from the [LGTB] community, and outside of it,” said Bat Kol spokeswoman Renana Leviani.
Not all religious-homosexual groups will be marching on Friday, however.
The Kamoha group, which broke off from Havruta late last year after feeling that the veteran religious gay group in Israel was compromising on the religious adherence to which it was purportedly committed, will not take part in the Tel Aviv event.
“We are against marching, and so are all the national religious rabbis,” said Kamoha founder Amit.
“To march was not an easy decision,” Jonas said on Thursday.
“One of the main reasons we are marching is that we meet growing numbers of people who, upon seeing kippas in the context of gay pride, realized that they are not alone, and were strengthened.”
“If, as a religious youth I had felt alone, without anyone to turn to, today young religious people have many more options,” said 29-year-old Jonas, who grew up in a liberal- modern Orthodox household in the capital.
Nowadays, he continued, rabbis contact him daily for help and advice on their students.
“Without us, there would be hundreds of youths from nationwide who wouldn’t know where to turn,” said Jonas. “Maybe this way we are saving lives.”
Even so, marching in an event associated with the most profane aspects of homosexuality is not an easy call for the groups struggling for more recognition in the religious societies they come from, and seek to be part of.
“To a certain extent, it could damage our reputation within the religious sector,” said Jonas. “This isn’t the first time we are marching – we marched in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem last year – and every year our numbers at the march grow. Rabbis are asking our help and dealing with the issue [of homosexuality among their students] more and more.”
“If we cease to progress,” Jonas added, “we are liable to lose all of what we achieved up to this point.”