Getting beyond 'abomination'

Straights and gays both need to show greater sensitivity.

rainbow flag 88 (photo credit: )
rainbow flag 88
(photo credit: )
The other day I opened my e-mail to find someone had forwarded me a letter against World Pride 2006 - the international gay parade - set for August in Jerusalem. The e-mail included an invitation to sign a petition opposing the event. I was fairly interested until I read the wording of the message. I had no problem with the march being described as "offending the sensibilities… of three religions." However, I was put off by the claim that it would be "an unprecedented provocation, one which had not been known in history since the days of… the destruction of the city." The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple rates as the most traumatic episode in Jewish history. For over two millennia Jews have observed an annual three-week mourning period, culminating in the most solemn of all fast days to remember that catastrophe. Could a 10-day gay conference and march really compare to this? ALTHOUGH I object most fervently to holding the gay pride march in Jerusalem, I cannot see the point in using fire and brimstone language to argue against it. Take the op-ed by Orthodox author Yaffa Ganz called "Love, borders & civilization" in the June 20 edition of this newspaper. While she did not go so far as to describe homosexuality as an abomination before God, she did dub it an "aberrant biological phenomenon." "Human beings," she wrote "are designed to propagate through the union of two opposite sexes… Promoting… recognition of homosexuality as an 'alternate life style' means admitting that there is no value to perpetuating life." Carrying Ganz's arguments through to their logical conclusion would mean that any sexual activity performed without the express purpose of "perpetuating life" is, in the words that she uses to describe homosexuality, "a destructive, nihilistic and absolutely anti-life ethos." Arguments such as these are turning out to be self-defeating. In Ganz's case, they completely overshadowed her other, more reasonable points. Meanwhile, in justifying his own participation in the march, Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kalman of the Reform movement, whose op-ed piece "Why a rabbi will march in Worldpride" was featured on the same page, argued that Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski's "abusive attack" on the gay community last year only strengthened its resolve to hold the march and attracted support from other elements who were made to feel "broader, more universal issues" were now at stake. WHILE I concur with his argument that bringing the issue of homosexuality out into the open could help those who "haven't been able to come out of the closet," I find it hard to accept his conclusion that holding the parade constitutes "fulfilling the commandment of pikuah nefesh, saving a life." This is such a central tenet of Judaism that one is commanded to perform halachically forbidden acts on Shabbat - even to eat on Yom Kippur - in order to ensure its fulfillment. Surely there are more effective and less offensive ways of preventing the suicide of sexually-confused teenagers than clogging up the main arteries of our already congested city for several hours on a workday. Incidentally, Jerusalem - contrary to what the good rabbi wrote - is not a city conducive to marches. No commuter will be rendered more sympathetic to any cause if he or she is made to arrive home up to two hours late (as has happened to me on more than one occasion because of parades held in central Jerusalem.) THE WORLD in which we live today has changed immensely since the end of the 19th century, when playwright Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for committing homosexual acts. No TV sit-com, drama series or soap opera can be shown without featuring a gay character, or having at least one episode that deals with the subject. The token homosexual of the past 20 years has replaced the token African-American of the 1960s and '70s as a mandatory ingredient of prime-time TV shows. Even a recent episode of the cartoon series the Simpsons featured a gay couple. As a parent, I find all this disturbing as I don't want my own children exposed to the subject just yet. Homosexuality is an issue that has to be addressed. However, there must be a general agreement on where, when, how and by whom this is done. DESCRIBING homosexuality as an abomination, whether religious or biological, cuts no ice in today's politically correct climate. The campaign for gay rights is seen as part of the struggle for human rights in general. We can all agree that no person should suffer discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, race or sexual orientation. We can all also agree that what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home is their own concern. Indeed, this principle has been accepted by the vast majority of the public, as Ganz pointed out. Plainly, there are far more important human rights issues that the gay community should be spending its time fighting for other than holding a parade which could conceivably lose it sympathy from many Jerusalemites. Gays are making human-rights gains. I personally have begun to accept the idea of adoption by single-sex couples. As a teacher, I have come to understand that heterosexuality is no guarantee of fit parenthood. However, the sight of a militant in-your-face gay movement is liable to cause a knee-jerk reactionary backlash. I appeal, therefore, to the Jerusalem gay community: Please rethink your decision to hold the march in our city. Show the same sensitivity to others' feelings as you would have them do to yours. Parading yourselves in our trouble-stricken city will only invite the abuse you so wish to abolish. I, and many others like me, will continue to support the campaign for your basic rights. Please do not push us away. The writer is a Jerusalem-based school teacher.