Parades and Principles

In the end, it wasn’t threatened violence from any haredi hotheads that did in the planned “gay pride” parade scheduled for the streets of Jerusalem, but an IDF strike in Gaza that brought about the deaths of 20 Palestinians and subsequent threats of retaliatory terror attacks against Israelis and Americans.

Fear of violence, though — of any sort — should not have been the impetus for the parade’s cancellation. What should have made such an event unthinkable in the first place, and should do so in the future, is something stark and simple: respect — for Jerusalem, for her residents and, ultimately, for Judaism.

The word “parade” conjures images of music and festivity, gaudily bedecked marchers and perhaps an elephant or tiger or two. And indeed, in venues like San Francisco, “gay pride” parades have been exhibitions of exhibitionists, processions that featured, if not actual animals, people clearly in touch with their inner beasts.

But organizers of the ill-fated Jerusalem parade — originally part of “Jerusalem WorldPride 2006,” an international call to homosexuals to descend upon the holy city “in a massive demonstration of LGBT dignity, pride and boundary-crossing celebration” — insisted that their event would be no such spectacle of bad taste. It would be, rather, a civil and principled attempt to advance the legitimacy of a homosexual lifestyle through changes to the traditional conception of the family.

To some of us, including a majority of Jerusalem’s residents, that “principled” social agenda is considerably more objectionable than any bacchanalian display. Crassness and craziness, after all, are laughed (or gasped) at and soon forgotten. Social revolution, though, by its very definition, aims to effect societal change.

There are societies, of course, for better or worse, that welcome such change, and there are Israelis with similar feelings as well. But Israel also has many citizens, particularly in Jerusalem, who consider the radical redefinition of moral behavior and the concept of family to be a deliberate affront to their deepest convictions.

Israel has hardly adopted the Torah’s laws as her own, as is readily evident from a visit to any of a number of neighborhoods or night spots in Tel Aviv (or even, sadly, in Jerusalem). Nor is there any religious effort afoot to pry into fellow citizens’ private lives. But the Torah is very clear about what sort of personal intimate relationships are proper and what sorts are not. And all but a small proportion of the Israeli citizenship endorse the idea that the Jewish state owes a certain respect to the Jewish religious heritage.

Yes, in a free society, any group can promote any cause, no matter how ill-conceived or offensive it may be to others. But bounds, including limits to free speech and demonstration, exist even in the freest of societies. Is it really an unthinkable curb on legitimate self-expression for the authorities and judiciary of a self-described Jewish state to prevent an intentional affront to dedicated and faithful Jews — not to mention to the Jewish religious tradition?

The threats of violence against the would-be marchers that reportedly appeared in anonymous pamphlets and posters in Jerusalem are indefensible. But such ugliness — whatever its source might in fact have been — should not obscure the actual issue: Are the Jewish religion and the sensibilities of tens of thousands of Jerusalem’s residents deserving of respect? Or is all that trumped, even in the Holy Land’s Holiest City, by the social agenda of radical activists?

Over the course of history, Jews lived their lives — and all too often died their deaths — in dedication to the Jewish faith. Does that faith not deserve, at very least, the respect of the Jewish State?

You may also like...

23 Responses

  1. Avi Shafran says:

    Ah, now THAT’s a truly trenchant question. The short answer is “it depends if the actions are proper under the circumstances or not.” Which begs the real question I think you mean to ask: Is the sort of violent action that was taken by some people in the streets of Yerushalyim recently a Kiddush HaShem or a Chillul Hashem? Was it, in other words, proper civil disobedience protest in the service of a high ideal or thuggish vandalism in the guise of something more sublime?

    One thing is certain: it was certainly one or the other. Which means that those who engaged in the activities better have consulted those they look to for halachic/haskafic guidance before setting the first match or throwing the first stone. Because such consultation is the only means of determining whether something is right or wrong — and in a case like this, a Kiddush or, chalila, a Chilul Hashem.

  2. Ori Pomerantz says:

    To bring it back to the current discussion, I understand that protesting the parade was a Halachic requirement. But what the requirement to protest in such a way that would prevent it (which is what happened), or in such a way that would help Kiruv efforts.

  3. Ori Pomerantz says:

    I did not explain my question clearly.

    If something is mandated by Halacha, then doing it, regardless of social mores, is Kiddush Hashem. If something is forbidden by Halacha then doing it, regardless of social mores, is Chillul Hashem. I meant to ask about the middle category, actions that are neither mandated by Halacha nor forbidden by it. Could those actions constitute Kiddush / Chillul Hashem, and if so, what determines which?

  4. Avi Shafran says:

    My thanks to Baruch Horowitz, Ori Pomerantz for their good wishes. May all Cross-Current’s writers and posters have much nachas and bracha in their own lives.

    BH’s comments resonate strongly within me, and I thank him for giving them such eloquent expression here.

    OP’s question is a good and trenchant one. I don’t think that Kiddush and Chillul Hashem are defined by their effects. Bris milah is a mitzvah, and performing it, even to the consternation of a society that sees it as barabarism is, ipso facto, a Kiddush Hashem. And what Zimri and Kosbi did, while it might have been perceived as a liberating societal evolution by some at the time, was a Chillul Hashem

    (I smile at the memory of an elderly Israeli relative of mine, a nonfrum lady whom I visited in her home in Holon back in the 70s when I was learning in E”Y. She implored me to tuck my tzitzis into my pants, finally, exasperatedly saying “B’vakasha, Avi! Zeh Chillul Hashem!”).

    I think, though, that the ultimate (in contradistinction to the immediate) effects of doing what is right will be positive ones.

  5. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Avi Shafran, Mazal Tov! May her life be plagued with the minor worries of taking care of healthy children, and free of any major worries.

    May I ask an outsider’s question about Chilul HaShem and Kidush HaShem? Are they judged by their effects, or by different criteria? If the first, is Chilul HaShem behavior that is likely to turn other people away from the path of Torah, and Kidush HaShem behavior that is likely to attract people to Torah?

  6. Baruch Horowitz says:

    First of all, Mazal Tov to Rabbi Shafran on his daughter’s wedding!

    I understand the complexity that Rabbi Shafran illustrates involved in Gedolim issuing condemnation of zealotry. But I would like to see a slow and concerted educational effort aimed at doing internal corrections on extremism in the charedi world. Such behavior definitely turns people off, and for better or for worse, the perhaps less polarized American Toran community is also identified with whatever “face” the Israeli charedi community presents to the world. It is not the golden mean(“shvil hazahav”) that I, and many others, associate with an ideal Torah world(see Netziv’s preface to Bereshis regarding the “Yashar” of the Avos).

    On the other hand, I recognize that there is a fine line between pointing out areas for communal improvement, and on the other hand, telling others what *their* values should be, so I admit that my views on the subject are subjective(by definition). Additionally regarding a separate issue, based on social engineering studies, Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum in the Summer 2004 Jewish Action made the point that there are a number of reasons why necessary communual change must be incremental and evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. Also, the Chafetz Chaim observed that he started out in his younger years wanting to have an influence on the entire Jewish world, but later realized that the only life that he could actually change was his own.

  7. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by Micha Berger — November 13, 2006 @ 3:41 pm:

    This discussed a constitution. Without shared values across Israeli society that the constitution would concretize, the whole thing is a non-starter.

  8. Avi Shafran says:

    Thanks to all those who took the time to comment here. My daughter, b”H, got married last night and with backlogged work and heading out of town for Sheva Brachos tomorrow morning, I feel a bit constrained to address the many points that were raised. But I wanted to at least offer a few quick reactions.

    There is no question that those who burned tires and such in protest of the impending parade did not do so with the guidance of Torah authorities. But there are two things to keep in mind when wondering why those authorities did not (if indeed they did not) more explicitly condemn the violence. One is that to do so establishes a precedent that will require a reaction every time some hooligan throws a stone (not to belittle the wrongness of that!) or shouts something rude. That is a recipe for ridicule, leading to complaints about “Well, they condemned “X”, why not “Y” or “Z”?). To be sure, there is a point where I think the Gedolim would feel it necessary to issue a condemnation. But if they don’t feel that garbage fires and the like rise to that level (even if I might think they do), I respect their judgment. It’s not as easy a call to make as it may seem to us armchair observers.

    Secondly, the line between civil disobedience (which includes “causing inconvenience” in Ahron’s phrase) and wrong-headed violence is not as sharp as some might think. To some, an overly vocal protest is going too far; to others, burning tires is a form of self-expression. We can all take our positions as we wish (my personal leanings are in the former direction), but at the same time we do well to allow for other points of view.

    I don’t think that violence or the threat of the same was the only way to stop the parade, but I do believe that protest (of the civil sort) was a chiyuv on all, regardless of whether it could have made a difference or not.

    Nor do I think that the cancellation was a “cheap victory” just because there are to’eiva activists and activities going on all the same. There was a special affront in parading profoundly anti-Torah ideals through the holy city, especially through areas populated by people dedicated to Torah (and, incidentally, I don’t believe Leibel Black is correct that Israel has a “secular majority” – most Israelis are religiously traditional, even if not what some would call personally observant). That such an affront was thwarted is indeed a (metaphorically speaking) worthy battle won.

    Finally, I concur heartily fully with Mike S; even if we must occasionally protest something, how we live our lives, in the end, is what will make the most profound societal difference, both in Eretz Yisrael and in chut la’Aretz.

  9. Ahron says:

    >“Alfie is right! Stopping the GAYParade this year is not a victory, only a respite from the ongoing march of the homosexual storm troopers to impose their lifestyle on society.”

    True enough. The war over the values or non-values of Israel continues apace. I hope Haredi society can contribute more than flaming trash bins to the battle.

  10. Mike S says:

    The only way the religious have to persuade Israeli society to respect Torah values is to live their lives in such a way as to make the wisdom of the Torah obvious. The Torah assures (beginning of the 2nd Aliyah of parshat va-etchanan)us that that when we properly live by its precepts, its wisdom and divine nature will be obvious. It behooves each of us to examine his or her own life to see how we fall short. That is equally true in galus, where most of our fellow Jews are distant from the Torah.

  11. Leibel Black says:

    Absent a belief in the Bible, what basis would there be to object to homosexuality or a gay protest march? Israel has a secular majority that does not believe in the Bible and is not offended by a gay lifestyle or a gay parade. The Schenck case that Harry refers to was overturned by the Brandenburg case. Today, in America, the test is not even “clear and present danger” but “imminent lawless action.” Israel is a Democracy and if all they have to fear is a bunch of old rabbis publicly wearing sackcloth, the sacrilege will continue under the protection of the civil courts.

  12. Micha Berger says:

    In the US, the FCC controls the use of radio. This is because radio is a shared resource. It’s one thing to protect an individual’s right to free speech, it’s another to make it impossible for the society to share the radio dial without stations interrupting each other.

    The divisive issue of the parade wasn’t one of freedom of expression or freedom of assembly. (Assuming Israel chooses to guarantee those rights.) It was ownership of public space, common ground.

    But Israel faces a major problem until it has a constitution. There is no way to define being a democratic Jewish state until one has issues defined constitutionally that can’t be decided through the same simple means as other matters. The Jewishness of the democratic state must be rigorously defined in a constitution.

    Of course, that’s not all chocolates and roses for the Orthodox camp(s). While it would take away the need to fight for Jewishness of those issues constitutionally guaranteed, it would also take away the power to fight for more Judaism in many areas where the constitution does not assert any.

    -micha

  13. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “The violence from the Haredi protestors was like the embodiment of all the worst caricatures often lobbed by secularists against the religious. I’m pretty sure that the Haredi rabbinate did not want this….but they also provided no alternatives. Ideological passion and youthful energy are going to be expressed somehow. It’s the leadership’s task to direct where.”

    I agree. I would add that laypeople need to work together with leadership to ostracize such behavior. I believe that much more can be done in this regard.

    “Unless you’re saying that stopping the parade wasn’t the goal, just protesting the fact of its taking place.”

    That is indeed the only thing which we have control over. It is not in our hands to “play G-d” and assume that we can control whether the Israeli government will withdraw from Gush Katif, or whether there will be a gay parade. But we do need to do all that we can to prevent it according to legitimate methods.

    It is hard to comprehend that a benevolent Deity would kill thousands of innocent people if the “charedi street” doesn’t burn trash cans or throw stones to prevent the march of homosexuals in Yerushalayim. But wearing sackcloth in the street to show one’s pain over the anticipated parade is an entirely legitimate means of protest, and is a kiddush shem shomayim.

  14. HILLEL says:

    Alfie is right! Stopping the GAYParade this year is not a victory, only a respite from the ongoing march of the homosexual storm troopers to impose their lifestyle on society.

    Taking their cue from the US, Israeli homosexuals are already demanding “Gay marriage,” or at least “Civil Unions.”

    They want the Israeli School system to celebrate the “GAy” lifestyle by pushing homosexual propaganda on innocent children.

    Yes, Alfie. A war cannot be won on defense. Parents, Rabbis, political leaders and others who want to preserve the holy character of Eretz Yisroel must go on the offensive and close down the radical homosexual organizations, like the JOH-Jerusalem “Open House,” who are the prime movers behind the immoral radical homosexual agenda.

    This will not be an easy task, because the JOH is lavishly funded by the richest foundation in the world–the left-wing Ford Foundation in New York.

    The JOH also receives free legal services by lawyers from the “Assocation for Civil Rights” in Israel, who are also funded by the Ford Foundation.

    In addition, the JOH gets funding from The NIF-New Israel Fund, which got 20 million dollars from the Ford Foundation just a couple of years ago.

    Henry Ford was a Jew-Hater who reprinted the well-known anti-semitic pamphlet “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and who supported the Nazi Government of Adolf Hitler. (Hitler referred to him as “our friend Heinrich Ford.”)

    I guess Henry Ford’s children and grandchildren are advancing his goal of destroying the hated Jewish nation.

  15. Dr. E. says:

    The threats of violence against the would-be marchers that reportedly appeared in anonymous pamphlets and posters in Jerusalem are indefensible. But such ugliness—whatever its source might in fact have been—should not obscure the actual issue:

    Rabbi Shafran

    While you give a brief “condemnation” of the tremendous Chillul Hashem in a medium that the Agudah will be condemning next week, the silence of the leadership in openly denouncing such reactions is telling. It seems like the dictum of “Halacha v’ein morin kein” is being exercised. And if an open condemnation (a la the ubiquitous Kol Koreh variety) is not in the cards, what about a call for civil tefillah gathering or protest?

  16. alfie says:

    It’s not my column, it’s rabbi shafran’s. ask him.

  17. Bob Miller says:

    Alfie,

    What additional actions do you propose to remove the remaining abominations you catalogued? (Comment by alfie — November 11, 2006 @ 6:43 pm)

  18. alfie says:

    There is nothing in the halakhah about parades. On what basis was the opposition? OK so now the parade was aborted (oops bad word?). What now? Gays are partying in their stadia, their clubs, their homes, they are selling gay pornography, writing gay poetry and fiction, living together as couples.

    To me this is as cheap a victory as you could get. You have changed nothing, shown the world how violence is used to defend the Torah, acted out in anger and rage. How indeed is this a victory?

  19. Daniel says:

    Ahron –

    While I just responded to your last comment in the prior thread, I would like to comment here as well.

    It seems that we are completely in agreement. My issue in this whole episode has been the inability of the “Charedi street” to express itself civilly. As Harry said, “bad choices on the part of the government does not in any way absolve or excuse what the mostly Charedi “Vilde Chayos” did in their protests which made a potential Chilul HaShem an even greater one.”

    In answer to your last question, I would say that the holiness of Jerusalem has undoubtedly been diminished. At the end of the day, there was no public display of homosexual exhibitionism. But the streets of Jerusalem (and the halls of many yeshivas) are still full of the rubble of this misguided protest.

    Aryeh –

    Are you seriously arguing that in an open and democratic society such as Israel, where parties across the religious spectrum are able to sit down together and govern a country, the only way to get a point across is to threaten violence against individuals?

    The parade was canceled because of the security situation, and as a direct result of mediated negotiation. The two sides sat down and talked. That is how things get done. Threats of violence are tantamount to threats of terrorism, which puts the “Charedi street” on the same level as Hamas. No matter what your personal views on the matter are, condoning violence is never “the only way.”

  20. Aryeh says:

    “In the end, it wasn’t threatened violence from any haredi hotheads that did in the planned “gay pride” parade scheduled for the streets of Jerusalem, but an IDF strike in Gaza that brought about the deaths of 20 Palestinians and subsequent threats of retaliatory terror attacks against Israelis and Americans.”

    I most respectfully disagree. It seems to me that it was the combination of both.

    “The threats of violence against the would-be marchers that reportedly appeared in anonymous pamphlets and posters in Jerusalem are indefensible.”

    L’maaseh that was the only way to stop the parade and it contributed to its cancellation. All the other methods didn’t work. (Similarly, violence would have been the only thing that could have stopped the expulsion from Gush Katif). How else were you going to stop it? Unless you’re saying that stopping the parade wasn’t the goal, just protesting the fact of its taking place.

  21. Ahron says:

    I’ve posted here already about what the goal of the march seemed to be: as R. Shafran basically notes, the overturning of the Jewish and Western value systems for a new value system (or an old pre-Biblical one depending on how you see it.) The attempt to march through Jerusalem was as intellectually imperialist an idea as one could conceive. Israeli politicians in control endorsed it.

    I wish the Haredi protestors knew the definitions of two words: ‘civil’ and ‘disobedience’. But: the Haredi leadership has largely disenfranchised its own community from any meaningful discourse, social or political, with Israeli society. This means first of all that there is no structure within which the Haredi “street” (now there’s a new term) can express itself publicly and normally. But worse it means that the Haredi public really doesn’t even have the conceptual tools to express itself publicly and normally even outside of some kind of structure. When an American population found itself excluded from the sociopolitical process in the mid-1900s (i.e. black Americans) they discovered the tools of civil disobedience: sit down, refuse, disobey, cause inconvenience even chaos–but never attack. They overturned the hearts of millions of hostile citizens and enabled a social revolution whose fuel has not yet run out. Haredi society needs to be given access to these tools along with the rest of religious Israelis.

    The violence from the Haredi protestors was like the embodiment of all the worst caricatures often lobbed by secularists against the religious. I’m pretty sure that the Haredi rabbinate did not want this….but they also provided no alternatives. Ideological passion and youthful energy are going to be expressed somehow. It’s the leadership’s task to direct where. The burning of garbage bins and utility poles is reminiscent of the university riots that have taken place perenially in America in “response” to NCAA basketball results. People who were in Jerusalem this past week said that the atmosphere around the burnings and chaos was one of mayhem, lawlessness and total license–as far from sanctity and excellence as one could imagine. Is that how Haredim wish to defend the beauty and treasure of Jerusalem? Can’t they strive to at least raise themselves to the level of protest that black Americans reached in the 1950s?

    The homosexual march has been cancelled–but has the holiness of Jerusalem really been enhanced? Even defended? Next time an issue of fundamental concern arises to the Haredi public I want them to defend their cause with the passion, dignity and seriousness it deserves. All of Israel would be better for it.

  22. Ori Pomerantz says:

    The term “Jewish” has two distinct and separate meanings.

    One meaning is religious. This is what US Jews tend to think about as Judaism, since it is so easy to call ourselves Americans.

    The other meaning is national. This is the meaning that the Zionist movement, which has been predominately secular, followed. My grandparents’ generation, growing up in East Europe, never accepted as fully Lithuanians, Polish, etc. had to think of themselves as belonging to a separate nation, regardless of their opinion of Judaism as a religion. Israel inherited this meaning. AFAIK, Israel has never had an observant Prime Minister. Israeli law is not and never has been based on Halacha.

    Jerusalem, therefore, suffers from a dual character. On one hand, it is Ir Hakodesh with a large religious population. On the other hand, it is also Birat Israel, the capital of the state of Israel. As such, some of its public character is going to be secular. Notice that the gay pride parade people did not even try to march in a religious city like Bney-Brak.

    Would it have been better if secular Israel had its capital in Tel Aviv, so Jerusalem would be solely Ir Hakodesh?

  23. Harry Maryles says:

    In the end, it wasn’t threatened violence from any haredi hotheads that did in the planned “gay pride” parade scheduled for the streets of Jerusalem, but an IDF strike in Gaza that brought about the deaths of 20 Palestinians and subsequent threats of retaliatory terror attacks against Israelis and Americans.

    As is usually the case with your writing, this essay is right on target. And your opening line is almost verbatim what I wrote in my own blog. I of course agree entirely with your sentiments. Although you didn’t say it this way, the following is implied in your message. The US Supreme Court has ruled that freedom of speech (expression) which is so basic an element of a modern democracy does not give one the right to yell, “Fire!” in a crowded theater. The government in Israel would do well to look at that famous Supreme Court decision. Allowing a parade that promotes values which is such an abomination for so a large portion of the residents of the holy city of Jerusalem is tantamount to the same thing.

    But, I would point out here, as I did in my own blog that bad choices on the part of the government does not in any way absolve or excuse what the mostly Charedi “Vilde Chayos” did in their protests which made a potential Chilul HaShem an even greater one.