Israel celebrated Jerusalem Day earlier this week. A highlight of the festivities was the Dance of Flags in the nation’s capital, in which thousands of men, women, students and people from every religious stream converge on the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City to celebrate the liberation of the city. The capital turned a resplendent blue and white to mark the Six-Day War, a logic-defying military operation that’s still taught in air force academies around the world.
Miracle? God only knows. Parade-worthy? Most definitely.
Later this week, Jerusalem will be holding another parade. That’s right, we’ve mastered the art of distraction, sprinkling flags and glitter over growing piles of trash in a city where nearly 40 percent of families are considered poor. Roman emperors used chariot races and gladiatorial games to pull the wool over their subjects’ eyes. Today, Jerusalem’s city elders put on parades, marathons, bicycling events and even a Formula One race to project an image that belies some harsh realities.
But I digress.
On Thursday, Jerusalem will put on its annual Pride Parade. The LGBT community will have an opportunity to display its confidence and self-respect. This is portrayed by event organizers as a celebration, a coming together of the entire gay community—from all sectors, faiths, backgrounds, identities and genders. What could be more inspiring than witnessing a socially marginalized group marching in unison, striving with every step towards equal rights, liberty and personal security?
But the very concept of gay pride is curious. We attach feelings of pride to things we have accomplished. We take pride in the accomplishments of friends and family. Sometimes, we’re proud of well-fought failures. I washed out of law school after a year of endless study and constant effort. These efforts were for naught, except for the feeling of pride I took with me: I didn’t go down without a fight.
This is why I’m confused by the term “gay pride.” The terms links virtue to a trait that most people believe is largely innate: sexuality. I’m not proud of being heterosexual since I never had to strive to be straight. Pride that isn’t the result of effort, the constant striving to improve both personally, professionally and as a member of society, paves the way to unchecked ego—the single greatest enemy to growth.
When I leave the surly bonds of earth, friends and family will gather and reflect on the man, husband, brother, son, friend and citizen I was. Was I kind? Patient? Magnanimous? Wise? Brave? A role model? The answers to these questions most assuredly won’t be: “He was all those things and more. After all, he was a heterosexual.”
No, I will be judged by the sum total of my successes, failures, virtues and vices. If I made my loved ones proud, it will have been because of my actions and values. Our virtues are developed over our lifetimes, they’re not genetic entitlements.
Parades are public processions that aim to bring people from very different walks of life together around a central theme, a common goal, a common challenge. Jerusalem Day celebrates a national triumph, a victory against all odds brought about by the brave actions of men and women of every ethnic background, religious affiliation and sexual orientation.
Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade, however, divides this astonishingly diverse city into two camps: members of a politicized LGBT community and everyone else.
This is what can happen when people define themselves primarily by their sexuality. Instead of engaging in broad-based conversations about how to improve the lives of Jerusalem’s residents, agenda-driven leaders of the LGBT community use buzzwords like “equal rights,” “liberty,” “personal security” and “protection” to push a narrow political agenda.
In a free society, any and all citizens have the right to assemble and air grievances in a peaceful manner. But let’s be clear: The gay pride event taking place Thursday, despite the lofty terminology, is nothing more and nothing less than a political protest.
If the city of Jerusalem seeks to bring its denizens together under an umbrella of common aspirations, they should consider spending more time on organizing and investing in events that unite, not sow division. Jerusalem’s men, women and children would be better served if parades for educational reform, urban renewal, greater job opportunities and against poverty became the order of the day.
This would be an accomplishment that the entire city of Jerusalem could take pride in.
Gidon Ben-Zvi contributes to “The Algemeiner,” “The Times of Israel,” “The Jerusalem Post,” CiF Watch and blogs at Jerusalem State of Mind.