For around two thousand years, Jews, Christians and Muslims and been killing each other over the ownership of the city. However, the three religions seem to be able to find common ground and work together when it comes to the issue of gay pride in the city. Every year since the first parade in 2002, the radical religious groups in the city and from around the world try and do everything they can to stop the parade from happening. In 2005, one particular nutcase rushed into a group of marchers with a knife, stabbing 3 people. In 2006. the threat of violence against the parade was so great that the police said they could not guarantee the safety of the participants. So the parade was moved to a stadium and no spectators were aloud.
Besides Jerusalem's special significance to the 3 major monotheistic religions, it has a large personal significance as well. I lived in Jerusalem or in its suburbs for around 8 years. When I dreamed of coming to Israel as a young boy to" fulfill my religious and nationalistic duties", I dreamed of the city of Jerusalem. When I first started to leave the religion, living in Jerusalem made it very difficult. The secular community of Jerusalem is shrinking and it lives in the shadows of the growing ultra-orthodox communities. When I would tell people that I did not believe in god, they would look at me like I was a total lunatic. The city life also revolves around religious life, meaning that from Friday night to Saturday night pretty much everything is closed and all you can do is stay home.
Coming out as gay in Jerusalem was even more difficult. For about a year I worked as a security guard at Jerusalem's Hebrew University. It was not uncommon to see some of my coworkers make fun of openly gay students. On a number of occasions, I heard coworkers announce how they would refuse to work side by side a gay security guard. Needless to say, I was always very worried that someone at work would find out I was gay. So Jerusalem became a symbol of my old religious, closeted life.I could not wait to get away and move to a more tolerant city like Tel Aviv.
Today, when I go back to Jerusalem to visit and I see all the men dressed in black and all the women with their hair covered and in long heavy clothes in the summer, I think to myself "how was this ever a part of my life? I am so glad I got away from it and can live my life freely and in a way that will make me happy".So now going back to Jerusalem for a pride parade, I was looking forward to celebrating how far I had come in the last few years.
You can be sure that the Jerusalem Pride Parade is very different than most other parades. It is more of a protest than a celebration. The sidewalks were not full with cheerful spectators rooting the marchers on, rather the sidewalks were pretty empty. There were a few people clapping here and there. There where a few people making rude hand gestures. But mostly there was just police.
My personal highlight was when the parade passed by "Hachel Shlomo", the offices of the Israeli Chief Rabbanit. The chief rabbis are among the leaders of the anti-Jerusalem pride parade camp. They say how having LGBTQ people march in the "holy city" is a desecration. But there I was, marching past their offices anyways. Tolerance had beaten superstition and hate. For years religion made me deny and feel ashamed about being gay. And now I was marching in a gay pride parade, holding a rainbow pride flag, in Jerusalem, right under the noses of the intolerant and hateful rabbis. What a feeling!
|That is me holding my flag during the parade. The tall building with the dome in the background, is "Hachel Shlomo", the offices of the Israeli Chief Rabbani|