On the eve of the annual «pride Parade» in Jerusalem on issues of editorial NEWSru.co.il said the former General Director of the «Jerusalem open house of pride and tolerance», the reformist Rabbi Noah Satata.
Interviewed By Alla Gavrilova.
Noah, tell us about the first gay pride parade in Jerusalem.
The first «pride» was held in 2002, shortly after Jerusalem was established the first center for the LGBT community. Organizing the «pride», we didn’t know whether to come to his people and how he will look. Jerusalem and the first «pride Parade and tolerance» gathered several thousand people and was very quiet, and then started the protests by ultra-Orthodox and the unceasing attempts of the municipality to prevent the holding of parades.
What attempt is it?
The Jerusalem municipality gave us a spoke in the wheel, and tried every means «to cover» parade and to deprive us of resources while the last three mayors Olmert, Lupolianski and Barkat. Most active in this respect was, of course, URI Lupolianski.
Was already in the Jerusalem LGBT community, religious representatives?
In the community from the very beginning was not only secular but also religious people, and Jerusalem Arabs. Later, Arabs and religious people organized your cell, but first we were all together.
What has changed in relation to LGBT people in Jerusalem over the years?
You know, in 2003 we forced the municipality to «pride» to hang in the street, where was held a parade, rainbow flags. I was walking down the street with a journalist, it seems, the Second channel ITV, and she was asking what kind of flags. Some said that the flags of the Druze community. Others say it’s a symbol of spring. But no one knew what the rainbow flag. Of course, this situation has changed.
But we must understand that in Jerusalem there are three groups of people – Palestinians, ultra-Orthodox and other Jews. Of course, the third group has changed in this respect most, but in the first two groups have been changes began to appear.
I remember in 2005 I was sitting in my office on the street Ben Yehuda knew that just a kilometer from me, in MEA Shearim there are hundreds of boys and girls who are gay and lesbians. And I could not get to them. They didn’t have Internet, they didn’t listen to the radio or watching TV. Their paper is not accepted we even paid ads, their phones did not answer our calls. The same thing happened in the kilometer to the East, the Palestinians. Today this isolation is in the past.
Why did you leave «Open house» and became a reform Rabbi?
I think I already knew what role religion plays in how we define ourselves. When I was a teenager and already knew I was a lesbian, Israeli President Ezer Weizman said that gays cause him disgust. Today, secular people do not allow themselves such statements. Even Avigdor Lieberman, who is obviously a homophobe, so I would not put it. The only community where overt homophobia is a legitimate is an ultra-Orthodox community. Similarly, there is the situation with misogyny (disdain for women approx.ed.), since only the ultra-Orthodox community allowed open displays of misogyny. And discourse in this community is fueling homophobia in other sectors of society. Therefore, I believe that my place is in the religion, where I can influence it.
However, you are in the reformist community. How can you influence what happens in the ultra-Orthodox community?
My community does not believe that the «haredim» have the right of possession of Judaism. Moreover, we do not believe that because the ultra-Orthodox community is homophobic, it is necessary to move away. We are convinced that our task is to develop a dialogue and work on topics within the different branches of Judaism in Israel.
You don’t see the internal contradiction meanwhile to be both a Minister of religion and LGBT activist?
No, I see it as challenging and interesting task. Because all religions are very ancient, they were created in a different world – conservative and Patriarchal. In my opinion, each generation has an obligation to interpret the religion again. And the duty of our generation, among other things, to lead to a «Tikkun» in the subject of LGBT.
As an example, «a homophobe» you brought the head of the party «Israel Our home» Avigdor Lieberman. Why do you consider him a homophobe and why bring in an example of it?
His homophobia is proved by the line of his party. And it is homophobia, NDI is always a stumbling block for important initiatives – are important not only for the LGBT community. For example, for the introduction of civil marriages. The bill on civil unions in one form or another served in every convening of the Knesset. And the reason why it can not spend, is not only to coalition agreements with ultra-Orthodox parties. In the past the government, when they were not in the coalition, to introduce into Israel a secular marriage still did not work, and it is because of NIDS, since the liberal camp was not ready to remove from the bill the marriages between same-sex couples, and NDI were not prepared to extend the law for us. This is a clear, declared homophobia.
Recently there was a huge wave of protests due to the fact that the government opposed the adoption of children by same-sex couples. But in Israel, very few children for adoption, and I personally, for example, the problem that same-sex couples are not allowed to use in Israel to surrogate motherhood, it seems much more serious.
About the number of children for adoption you are right. In 2016, Israel has adopted a total of 19 children. And even if we win and the government will allow same-sex couples adoption is, unlike surrogate motherhood, rescue the few. But the protests were not caused by the practical side of the question, and the fact that the state’s position was so ridiculous and outrageous that silence was impossible and wrong.
In every social struggle there are moments when some «trigger» leads to a strong surge in activity. And it is not always possible to predict who will be this «trigger» this time.
Why Israel, in particular Jerusalem, the LGBT community has achieved over the last 15 years? Why are you so stubbornly continue to hold parades in Jerusalem, despite the opposition of a great part of the population of the capital and the city authorities?
There are two points – political and public. Gay pride parade is not only a political but also a social tool. Gays and lesbians often are isolated from communities of their own kind, because they live in heterosexual families. Often they are surrounded by lies about the LGBT community. And «out of the closet» is usually a very lonely and difficult process. And «pride» enables us to do this together. People who go to the parade in Jerusalem, risking their lives, and it’s not just lofty words. However, they make a choice and go out together with the whole community to live a more honest and fulfilling life.
I am convinced that the degree of openness of a society is determined by the number of people who live «outside the closet». And the greater the number of people in Jerusalem «pride» will help to «come out of the closet», the more it will change Israeli society.
In addition, Jerusalem «pride» is part of our struggle for Jerusalem against religious domination as a whole. Every year we when we say «go to tel Aviv,» going out for «pride», we declare that Jerusalem belongs not only to the ultra-Orthodox.
And we need to understand that the lesbian ultra-Orthodox community even thinks about whether same-sex couples to adopt children or not. She can’t even imagine what I’d be able to enter into same-sex relationships. Therefore, the public discussion, which caused parades, affects her life, no less than new laws and more rights.
Of course, public and legislative activities complement each other. When there is discrimination, it fuels a negative attitude towards the community. Progress, in turn, has a positive impact on public discourse.
If to speak not about «haredim» or Palestinians, but about the other members of the Israeli LGBT community, what basic rights are you denied? Why would you first wanted to achieve from the point of view of the legislation?
The most important right denied to same-sex couples, is right to conclude in Israel marriages. You can say that many heterosexual couples are also deprived Israel of this right, given the lack of secular marriage, but you can get married in Cyprus, whereas same-sex couples have to go much further, which often makes a marriage impossible.
You want to say that the difference in rights between me and you is measured solely by the distance to the possible «registry office»?
Basically. If we had the opportunity to marry in such a simple way and only an hour flight from Israel, it would have changed things.
Many secular Israelis, not being able or not wanting to marry in the Rabbinate, I live in the so-called civil unions and enjoy the same rights as married couples. Why are you not satisfied? Moreover, there are reformists and «Mishpaha Hadasha», which issue certificates on civil unions.
For same-sex couples the official registration is much more important than for heterosexual couples because, and I’m not even talking about the issue of children in any institution – be it a state institution, a Bank or a zoo where you can get a family pass, it is much harder to prove that we are indeed family.
However, it turns out that in the struggle for marriage are insulated from the struggle for the complete separation of religion from the state, which lead many secular Israelis, although the victory in this fight would solve a lot of problems both straights and gays. Isn’t it time the liberal Israeli community – both straights and gays – unite and to resolve the problems of all citizens dissatisfied with the present situation?
I personally don’t think marriage is the only ideal. But first a person must have freedom of choice, and then he can decide what he wants. And while one group of the population that freedom is, and the other does not, the first group can’t decide in the second what they fight.
How do you see the Israeli LGBT community for another 15 years?
I am convinced that we still have a lot to do, and not just for LGBT people. Straight guys also suffer from the dominant in the society system of heterosexism. Our society still restricts men and women in traditional boundaries, and we are still far from every child, regardless of gender and orientation, could choose any color, Hobbies and occupation. But each of us has a certain place in the social line, and any place is legitimate. And only if I choose what suits me, I will be able to realize laid me human and divine potential.
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