Any political march contains masses of people, signs, chants, a reason for marching and an audience. A Pride March in Jerusalem, however containing all those factors, also consists of unity, happiness and passion. The Pride March in Jerusalem occurs every year at the end of July since 2002; it is a celebration, a protest, and an overall way to demonstrate that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) community in Jerusalem and Israel is proud and ready to stand up for their rights in the political capital of Israel. They are ready to fight against homophobia, inequality and infringements put upon their human rights such as freedom of speech as well as for a democratic society.
The Pride March is organized and run by Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH), an LGBTQI grassroots activist community centre. The JOH provides on a daily basis services and support to all LGBTQI individuals in Jerusalem and its surrounding communities whilst working to secure LGBTQI rights within Israeli society. The common goals of the JOH are that of tolerance and mutual support both within the LGBTQI community and more specifically amongst the wider community.
The LGBTQI community has been severely challenged from ultra-conservatives and the city council due to the special religious foundation the city is built on. These challenges have led to the LGBTQI community being harassed and violently abused by such individuals who have taken it upon themselves to act like an unintelligent bigot whereby a higher being told him to do so. The violent abuse and harassment that occurs consists of being spat on; stink bombs as well as dirty diapers being hurled at the LGBTQI community; extremely offensive signs stating the community has AIDS and signs stating that they will cause an earthquake, because earthquakes aren’t at all caused by tectonic plates shifting.
I’m all for respecting someone’s individual beliefs whether it stems from their religion or just their own personal perspective, what I cant respect or understand is when one decides to judge and condemn someone because they don’t share the same beliefs. I have been traveling for almost four months and can’t fathom the fact that we are in the 21st Century and LGBTQI rights are still an issue that individuals feel they need to oppress and are apprehensive about. What is also confronting is realising that democracy is still a relevant theme that isn’t being encouraged amongst all societies and governments around the world including Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a conservative city and the umbrella issues surrounding freedom of speech, sexuality and democracy are still current. Please note when I mention sexuality it doesn’t just focus on sexual orientation but any individual who expresses their sexuality be it through their political views, dress sense or their preferences and lifestyle.
This hostility present in Jerusalem that I learnt about as well as first-hand witnessed eventually escalated in June of 2005, during the Jerusalem Pride March where an ultra-Orthodox male stabbed three individuals who were participating within the march. What needs to be highlighted here is leading up to the march there were constant challenges faced by the LGBTQI community and the Jerusalem Open House in order to organize the Pride March. I want to bring to the forefront these challenges that arose from the then City Council and the police as to present the issue of the lawsuit that followed which was taken out against both the City Council and Jerusalem Police by one of the victims of the stabbing. In reaction to the lawsuit, the City Council and Jerusalem Police has decided to sue the Jerusalem Open House as third party involvement of the negligence and stabbing that occurred in June 2005.
The actions of the City Council today are evidence that although there are different members to that of the council in 2005, this lawsuit is implicating the rights of freedom of speech, equality and the right to protest. Regardless of sexuality, stripping away a democratic society where all individuals are entitled to think and speak their mind, it becomes a crippling system in which only some members of society are allowed to do so and speak for others that may not value the same beliefs or worse propose beliefs that stifle ones being. An article posted in an Israeli website Ynet (2014) reports city council stating that “the victim is at fault for his own attack”, this is a clear example of that stifling and crippling society where members are silenced based on their identity.
This restrictive, ignorant and disrespectful mentality is why something needs to be brought to the attention of all members of society.