Marisa Elana James, a Senior Organizer for T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, reflects on Jerusalem Pride
“I’ve been to so many Jerusalem Pride marches, but in the wake of the stabbing attack at today’s march, the one that’s standing out in my memory is 2009. I had volunteered to be a “sadranit” (marshal), and spent a lot of time scanning the crowd, particularly along the sides, to watch for anything unusual, any sign of trouble. At one point, I noticed a young orthodox guy in a long black coat with a black velvet kippah and long side curls slowly walking alongside the march, a few meters away, but pacing us, and I slowly moved closer to get a better look.
As I drew nearer, he noticed my rainbow kippah, and beckoned to me. I moved closer – but not that close – and greeted him with “sholom aleichem” (peace be upon you). He asked me (in Hebrew) why I was wearing a kippah, and I explained that I wore it not only when I was praying, but also when I was doing things that I hoped would help those prayers be answered. He asked so many questions, timidly and respectfully, and I tried my best to answer as honestly as possible. At the end of the march, he thanked me, and quickly walked away. A friend came over to ask “are you crazy? we were watching you, just in case he tried to kill you.”
I’ve been watching today’s events in Jerusalem unfold from my desk in New York, feeling like a piece of my heart is trying to leap out of my chest and fling itself across the ocean. I’m grateful to know that the authorities are taking this seriously, grateful for every time an attack against a minority group is taken seriously, because it’s not what I’ve come to expect. If American authorities responded to attacks on black Americans the way the Israeli authorities responded today – I would be grateful.
The young man who approached me with his questions in 2009 wasn’t what I expected. To be honest, I was wary, I had the worst-case scenarios running through the back of my head, I also thought I was a bit crazy.