Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Yesterday I was listening as a good friend of mine described her plans to visit World Pride in Israel in a few weeks, but I didn’t know what to say. When she and her wife suggested to our circle of friends a month back that we all go, Mrs. Nator and I recoiled. To us, that region of the world is not only far too dangerous to “vacation” in, but an emblem of all that’s wrong with religious and ethnic extremism. For thousands of years, people have been suffering, screaming and killing each other over this tiny parcel of land each claims their God gave to them. If I am able to raise the money to get away from home for a week, the last thing I want to do is go somewhere I’m going to absorb that kind of energy, much less risk being stoned or blown up. I have enough to worry about with the security funding being taken away from New York, thank you very much; why go from the frying pan into the fire?

That said, I admire their optimism, conviction and courage. They’ve had a full wedding, despite gay marriage still being illegal here, and now they’re going to participate in a much larger action for gay rights. Granted, they’ve been to Israel a number of times before and even have family there, so it’s not such a big deal for them just to go there. They also seem to feel that the prospects of violence are being over-hyped, and that Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, especially, are cosmopolitan enough that there will be far less unrest than some are predicting.

But from the reports I’ve been hearing of the recent violence in Moscow and the threats and epithets religious leaders of various faiths have been throwing around, it still strikes me that even rather modern cities can harbour extreme prejudice, and even in a region where there is constant fighting between religious groups, they can all seem to agree on one thing: hating gay people. That seems pretty damn dangerous.

In fact, there is some speculation that the events will be cancelled by the authorities worried about potential violence and/or siding with the anti-gay forces. However, in that case, activists might still stage an unauthorized march, which would probably make the situation even more volatile. I’ve marched in several “illegal” marches in my time, and witnessed police violence in New York City, which is supposedly a relatively accepting metropolis. If my friends participate in such a protest there, I’d definitely fear for their safety.

So, the question remains, to attend such an event, is one ignorant, brave, foolish or perhaps some combination thereof? Maybe the optimists are right, and I’m uninformed and worrying too much. Maybe I should feel guilty for not jumping on a plane to get there, myself. Maybe they’re just a little bit crazy. In either case, I will be watching nervously. I hope my friends – and everyone else – will be alright. I also hope that World Pride 2006 will advance the rights and freedoms that queers all over the world deserve.

“Jerusalem WorldPride 2006 will gather people from all over the world to bring a message that is needed throughout the Middle East and beyond: that human rights transcend cultural and ethnic boundaries, that our differences can be respected peacefully, and that love knows no borders. There is no better place in the world than Jerusalem to make that statement, and perhaps no city that needs to hear it more.

The struggle for acceptance and pride is particularly pointed in Jerusalem, a city that is home to three of the world's great religions. The greatest traditions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism affirm the dignity of all human beings and our creation in the divine image. Yet these same faiths have often been sources of hostility and intolerance for LGBT people.

WorldPride 2006 will bring thousands of us to Jerusalem to confront preconception with reality, prejudice with an opportunity for understanding, in a way that will capture the attention of the world.

Together we will proclaim that in this ancient religious city - and in this region - we too belong."

- Jerusalem Open House, the organizers of WorldPride 2006

Update: Prominent conservative religious leaders are now promising bloodshed if World Pride goes through, according to this article. It is interesting, however, that the article also notes that the extreme vitriol directed at World Pride 2000 by Catholics galvanized the queer community, leading to record crowds at that event.

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