Homosexuality is powerful — powerful enough, it seems, to bring about Middle East peace. The Muslim clerics who have steadfastly refused to condemn shahids who blow up civilians as an abomination to Islam have now joined the many haredi authorities who are decrying the proposed gay pride parade for Jerusalem. Finally, an issue we can all agree on.
I have always found it puzzling that religious people of all denominations continue to see gay men and women as the single greatest threat to civilization and as the ultimate sin. For the Islamic clerics, the gay marchers are a greater affront than the hundreds of thousands who blaspheme their faith by killing in the name of Islam. For religious Christians in America, homosexuals are the single greatest threat to the American family, even though gays are no more than 5 percent of the population, while the heterosexual divorce rate is at 50 percent. So who needs gays to finish off the family when straight men and women are already doing that job admirably?
One would have thought that Judaism, with its legal framework always allied to reason, would surely take a wiser approach to the homosexuality question and place it in its proper context. A nation that faces so many existential threats can respectfully oppose public demonstrations of homosexuality without making it the defining religious issue of our time.
Not so. The vitriolic religious response to the proposed gay pride parade and the recent riots in Mea Shearim, which left a dozen police officers injured, show that we Jews are just as capable of mistakenly making gay sex into the foremost religious issue of our time. In the last parade there was, of course, the haredi attacker who stabbed three participants and who is serving a 1′-year sentence. And while Jews eschew religious violence and passionately condemn such disgraceful attacks, the fact still remains that for hundreds of thousands stopping the parade has become a holy cause.
OK. But where were the haredi demonstrations against the forced removal of peaceful and law-abiding Jews from their homes in Gush Katif? I do not recall hundreds of thousands of haredim mobilized to protest the forced evacuation of yeshivas and synagogues that were later ransacked by hate-filled terrorists. Innocent men and boys, wearing yarmulkes, were dragged and pregnant women with their hair covered were torn from their homes, their mezuzahs ripped from their doorposts. And even today, as so many of the residents of Gush Katif continue to live in makeshift housing, I know of few great ultra-Orthodox authorities who call what happened by its proper name: an abomination.
Is it gays who threaten the future of the Jewish state? Or is it terrorist killers who have been emboldened by concession after concession by the Israeli government, a great many of which have been sanctioned by great rabbis who are fighting an all-out war against the parade, even as they have given sanction to make deals with terrorists.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is a case in point.
I was a student in yeshiva in Jerusalem back in the 1980s when the Lubavitcher rebbe pleaded with the Israeli government not to trade land for insincere promises of peace which, he predicted, would lead to scores of dead Jews. But there was Rabbi Yosef ordering the Shas Party to participate in government coalitions that immeasurably weakened Israel’s security and gave us the Oslo catastrophe.
Rabbi Yosef is one of the foremost opponents of the gay march, calling it an "evil mob seeking to defile the holy city of Jerusalem." He has called on every Jew "to protest against the abomination in the holy city," and has even suggested that the parade take place in Sodom. But what is the greater abomination? The thousand-plus Israelis who were blown to pieces as a direct result of the Oslo accords, which he claimed that Torah law supported, or gay men marching with placards? And when he calls gay people "evil," did he use the same word for Yasser Arafat, whose deals with the Israeli government he supported?
I am an Orthodox Jew, and I do not deny that homosexuality is labeled a sin and an abomination in the Bible. But the word abomination appears 1” times in the Torah, including for such behavior as eating certain non-kosher foods (Deut. 14:3), a wife remarrying her first husband after she has been married to someone else in the interim (‘4:4), and offering a sacrifice that is blemished (17:1). King Solomon in Proverbs goes so far as to refer to envy, a false heart, and a lying tongue as abominations before God. (3:3’, 16:”)
Oh, and he also adds, "He that sows discord among brethren" is an abomination.
Which should lead us all to the following conclusion. It would be good if the organizers of the parade would seek an alternate location so as to respect the city’s special character and not create an unnecessary schism in a country that needs all the unity it can muster.
But even if that were not to happen, it would be good if we Orthodox Jews remembered that our conduct must always sanctify God’s name through its righteous character, and that even if the parade goes ahead, the Jewish people today have far more pressing issues that need to be addressed.