The Blog of the Jerusalem Open House

Shalom Aleichem…

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Shalom Aleichem,

My name is Maiya and I am the third and final JOH intern to arrive for the summer. I am a fourth-year Anthropology and Psychology student at Bryn Mawr – a women’s college located in the outskirts of Philadelphia, PA in the US, but Iam originally from Portland, Oregon and won’t let you forget that. When I’m not waist deep in academics, you can usually find me at the BMC student garden weeding or singing with along with the birds in our birdbath. 

Many of my friends, family members and acquaintances have asked me why, as a straight female, I am so excited to work for the Jerusalem Open House this summer. Aside for my up-coming thesis in Gender Studies that I’m sure will be colored by my experiences at JOH, the queer community has become an important part of my life in the last three years. Being apart of a proud LGBTQ community has encouraged many of my friends to explore and question their sexuality instead of feeling limited by heteronormative expectations that exist in many colleges around the US. As I approach the end of my time in college, I have become more and more aware of the fact that this haven for queer openness might not exist in my future communities. This especially extends to Israel and the Jewish community, both communities I intend value and intend to maintain my connection with. I see it as my duty to appreciate and acknowledge this luxury and do what I can on a local and global basis to further support the rights of queer communities. For that, I feel honored that JOH has welcomed me with open arms. 

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They really waste NO time here at JOH. After my first 10am to 4pm day, I was sent off along with one of my fellow interns Carissa and Alon, the Community Organizer, to Petach Tikva (a town located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv) to celebrate their FIRST Pride Parade. When I told my co-worker, Benyamin, I was heading to Petach Tikva, he immediately started laughing, telling me that this town was, well, Petach Tikva. There were almost no words to describe it.  After visiting the place, what I think he meant is that as an extremely religious town, splattered with Sudanese, Muslims, and Jews alike, this was probably the last place one would find themselves marching in a Pride Parade. Right before we arrived, Alon warned me, don’t be surprised if there are 20 or 30 people there. Although it’s not an extremely small city, queer communities are not its main draw. Because of this impression I was given, I was completely taken aback by the crowd of over 100 who gathered to march the streets of Petach Tikva, sharing the pride of their identity, spreading the message of the love and acceptance of Gay communities, and marching in support of equal rights. Carissa, Alon and I, did our part, winding around the narrow streets with our large Jerusalem Pride post. After the mile-long march, the community gathered together at a park for speeches from local members of the community. Although I could not understand what was being said, Alon tried to translate for me. Here’s the gist of what I understood: One man spoke about the notion of ‘Pink Washing’ in Israel. He said that Tel Aviv is queer and proud of it, but many around Israel believe that that is where the queer communities should be limited too, if existing at all. Tel Aviv has been painted with a particular construction of a queer community, and many are resistant to considering queer community’s existence elsewhere. I agree with him that this is unacceptable. What was so empowering about the Petach Tikva march was the fact that the word of queer acceptance was being spread to a community where many have never been introduced to the concept. These marches cannot be limited to one place of celebration, because queer people live everywhere, whether or not in the heart of the World’s Best Gay City (as discussed by Carissa) or in the religious capital of the world. Way to go Petach Tikva! I hope I look forward to marching in many more Pride Parades throughout Israel in my time here to spread knowledge and understanding of Queer Pride’s existence in every locale.

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I will leave you all with a quote from a song by Jay Smooth, a rapper in New York City whose words inspire me every day to continue the work and support that I have begun: 

“Because when we find ourselves believing that killing a man makes us more of a man, but loving a man makes us less of a man, it’s probably time to reexamine our criteria for manhood.”

 
Until next time,
 
-Maiya
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