Monday night we held a film screening in preparation for next week’s 10th annual Jerusalem Pride March. The film, ‘Jerusalem is Proud to Present’, documents the preparations surrounding the Jerusalem World Pride in 2006 and the resulting violent riots. Viewers enjoyed a 3-D depiction in which the hatred depicted on the screen was acted out in reality.
A small number of local residents attempted to interrupt the screening. They began shouting at the audience: “perverts”, “our children will not be exposed to your impurity”, “this cannot happen in Jerusalem”, and “don’t screen a movie here about gays.” The event culminated when verbal abuse transformed, as happens all too often, into actual violence. One of them brought a large wooden club from his home and attempted to stop the screening by threatening violence.
CLICK HERE for a news article on the incident.
CLICK HERE for a short clip from that evening. Click on “cc” to see the subtitles in Hebrew and English.
The event was managed by staff and volunteers of the JOH, with both Eitan (chairperson of the board) and I in attendance. Together we acted to minimize contact between participants and protesters, while preventing escalation. Jerusalem police arrived promptly at the scene and acted swiftly to prevent violence. Nobody was hurt physically at the event and today we at the JOH are focusing on healing the mental wounds of those who experienced this trauma. The Jerusalem Open House filed a complaint due to the use of violence and the sole violent person was arrested that night and brought to court the following day. He was later released on house arrest.
In the eve of Tisha B’Av, it seems that the baseless hatred “Sinat Hinam” that once destroyed the city, is still bubbling beneath its pavement and stones. There was no reason to prevent the screening of the film except for baseless hatred: hatred of the owners of the café by its neighbors, hatred of the audience and hatred for the LGBTQ community. It is important be clear: it is permissible to oppose Jerusalem Pride. It is permissible to not like gays, and to even think they are obscene, permissible to protest against the screening of a film, and it is even permissible to say that gays commit suicide by the age of 40, and lesbians are lesbians because they had abortions. The LGBT community is one that values free speech and people are allowed to speak against it. However, the line between legitimate and illegitimate will continue to be drawn by the JOH at violence. This is a clear and unambiguous boundary that cannot be crossed under any circumstance. Monday night we filed a complaint and transferred the matter to the consideration of the police out of commitment to the safety of our community.
Next week we mark a decade of marching in the city of Jerusalem and this March seems more relevant than ever. The long road we have passed in the last decade began with incitement to violence in 2002, with the first Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance. The incitement to violence included the former Mayor Uri Lupolianski, the ancient ritual of Pulsa Denura which placed curses on community activists as well as a bounty on our heads. Agitation reached its peak in 2005 when Yishai Schlissel burst into the march and stabbed three marchers.
Despite the opposition, the annual gay pride parade has become an integral part of the status quo within the city. It seems that the statements of Supreme Court justice, Ayala Procaccia- “It is important these events will become common place and will not provoke riots” – have materialized – at least partially. The parade has become an annual tradition and its cancellation is no longer a pressing question. Jerusalem is no longer burning every time that Pride occurs, even when a violent minority tries (and succeeds) to ignite small riots. These days, when provocateurs try to start violence, it is the police who insist on the continuation of the event. Despite the threats of violence, the event carried on as planned. The movie screening ended successfully. Truly, we came a long way.
Pride in the city will not be affected by the events of Monday night, preparations are underway and will not be stopped. The Open House has led a struggle to demand rights for the LGBTQ community under the principle of non-violence for over a decade and will continue to do so for another decade to come. The parade will proceed as planned next Thursday, the evening of Tu B’Av. In a symbolic act, that we could not plan in advance, an event full of baseless hatred that occurred before Ticha B’Av, will be healed in the tradition of Tikkun Olam. This will occur in an event full of love of the other and respect towards difference on the eve of Tu B’Av. A symbolism that only the city of Jerusalem can create.
I call on all those who value the character of Jerusalem – straight or gay – come and march with us. Our struggle is your struggle too.
Please CLICK HERE to support Jerusalem Pride to ensure that this march for human rights is a success and we are able to come out strongly as a community to make a statement of plurality and acceptance.