Openly gay television host Assi Azar spoke at the Jerusalem Pride event that was held following the march, and said the words that the Israeli LGBT community would have liked to hear from the Jerusalem Mayor, Nir Barkat, and the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, who didn’t show up for the Pride.
“It shouldn’t have been me who stands here now.
The one should be here is Mr. Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem, but he is not here, because he’s afraid. ‘I didn’t want to hurt religious people’s sentiments,’ he said.
“So first and foremost let’s get things straight here . There are religious men and women here! They are here, and they are proud to be here! There are religious men and women who are part of the LGBT community, and there are also rabbis who graced us with their presence! This is the way you build a bridge.
“And I’d like to say something else to the honorable Mayor:
There is an old organization here, called ‘Jerusalem Open House,’ that for almost two decades takes care of the public, that you, the mayor, should take care of. You should see it as an anchor of tolerance in the city, you have to see us, LGBT people, as your partners, and not go against us in the headlines.
“A year ago, after the terrible murder in the streets of your city, you promised to give permanent residence to the Jerusalem Open House and to the gay community. A year has passed and the Jerusalem Open House is still sitting in a temporarily place. Promises should be kept, Mr. Mayor. Please, keep this promise, if not for us then for the memory of Shira.
“It shouldn’t have been me who stands here now.
It should have been all of the 300 rabbis who signed that horrible petition. But they are not here, because they are afraid.
“And to them I say, instead of sitting there, signing petitions that increase the distance between us, let us meet and sign the petition of mutual respect, of accepting one another. “Love thy neighbor as thyself”. Let’s start talking! Never did you sit down with us, never have you tried to understand us. It’s easy to fear, and learning to love those who are different from you is hard, but we owe it to each other, because we are a family. And that’s what family does. Struggles.
I urge the members of the Knesset to take up the challenge and create an encounter full of dialogue between these 300 rabbis, and 300 representatives of the community! This is the only way.
“Two years ago I had a meeting with Minister Bennett. We sat for dinner at a kosher restaurant in which he asked me “how does one becomes gay?” as if this is something that you’re infected by. It was then that I realized how important it is to talk. What a deep chasm there is between us and between those who decide our fate.
“Outside the parade I met Benzi Gopstiin, perhaps the most racist person in Israel. He and his friends were outside of the parade and shouting “Abomination parade”. I went to talk to him. He said harsh things and I answered him, but it ended with a handshake and even a hug, a hug that must be grating to a lot of people, and in fact- also to me, but there is no choice. That is the only way to move forward- to talk! I won’t answer hate with hate, even though that’s how our politicians educate us. They will throw hate on us from above and we’ll thrust it back to them with love from below.
“Everyone was talking this week about Rabbi Levinstein and I want to talk to you about Rabbi Adi Elefant from Chabad of Tel Aviv.
“Once every few weeks the rabbi comes to my house, helps me to put on tefillin, and advises me …
“Before my wedding, he helped prepare the glasses that Albert and I broke. He also hosted Albert and me for several Shabbat dinners. But the most important thing I learned from Rabbi Elefant is what a lot of Orthodox rabbis want us to forget- that Judaism is a beautiful thing, …hugging, and accepting everyone! And thanks to Rabbi Elefant, I inched closer to religion, I even fasted on Yom Kippur this year, after years of not doing that. That’s what dialogue makes, that’s what brings people closer.
“It shouldn’t have been me who’s standing here now. The one who should be here is our prime minister
“Last night I sat and I fantasized to myself how amazing it would be if Mr. Netanyahu was standing here with us, but he is not here, because he’s afraid.
“So I allowed myself to do something weird, and write him a speech, as if he were here.
I know it will be strange now, but try to imagine, hard though it may be, that I am Bibi, and how amazing it would be to hear him saying now-
Dear citizens, the LGBT community,
I enjoy being here. I enjoy being a prime minister of a country that respects all its citizens. A country that believes in ‘live and let live “, that accepts the other, even if it doesn’t understand the other.
I apologize for all the years you have been suffering from humiliating treatment by bad people, people who exploited religion to hide their own homophobia, and I promise I’ll do everything I can to build a bridge between you and those who are afraid of you. For that I am here, even for you. And I will support and will do everything I can for every boy and girl to know it is okay to be who you are.
You’ve got me.
Yours, Benjamin Netanyahu.”
I hope that next year it will happen. Thank you, everybody.