Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ulpan Report

The other day, just to wake us up a bit in class, the teacher read from an op ed in Ha'aretz recently about the furor over the gay pride parade in J'lem which is scheduled for next Friday. The writer wrote with a slant towards having the parade - that there was no disrespect towards Jerusalem, that the parade would be conducted with decorum and respect for the city and for the large religious population that inhabits it. He added that the parade should be allowed out of respect for free speech and the fact that the courts have ordered it to be conducted in the past and that the marchers should receive the proper police support and protection necessary to make sure that no marchers get injured by religious demonstrators (I believe 4 marchers were stabbed by an ultra-religous protester the last time the march was held in 2004).

The teacher, Ora, then said, "what do you think about this?" First to speak was an religous, head covering Jewish woman who commented that she felt that gays in Israel could march wherever they wanted in the country, why did they have to march in Jerusalem?" She added at one point that even though the marchers only march thru non-religious neighborhoods, that in the end they end up near religious neighborhoods and that she herself was privy to the most recent march a year or so ago and that it was not decorous and respectful as the writer indicated it would be. Pandemonium in the class. There were the dissenters - mostly big city American types like myself and a couple on the other side who hail from Seattle and LA, respectively. There was the Russian guy, who wondered why it has to happen in J'lem - gays have the whole world, can't they just mind their own business and stay out of J'lem, the other Russian guy, who didn't at first catch on to the meaning of the title gay pride parade in hebrew. Once apprised of the topic, he felt everyone should take a deep breath and relax. I asked him where do gay people congregate in Russia? Moscow, he said. The other guy, as it turns out, is from St Petersburg which has a less openly gay population. What was the most interesting thing about the discussion was who didn't say anything, the fact that if anyone in class was gay now was not the time to announce it, and the fact that as Ira mentioned to me, this would never be brought up in this way in NY. I brought this up. I said that in NYC it would be absolutely politically incorrect to talk about, that a whiff of anti-homosexual thoughts would have you branded an unacceptable human being and that the fact that the hebrew word for a gays is "homo'eem," which is postively wierd for me to say. There were definitely other religious types in the class who didn't say anything and the one Arab guy wasn't there that day and he probably wouldn't have been comfortable with the discussion and I was ready to duke it out with the religious woman but ultimately, we all agreed that the furor seemed to be before the parade and that in the end, people would cope if there was a parade and that funniest result of all of the tumult was that all the local religious leaders came together - jew, arab and christian to protest the one thing that they could all agree about.

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