Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gay Israelis Press For Marriage Rights

Some couples plan to "marry" at the annual Tel Aviv gay pride rally.  Tel Aviv has had gay pride rallies for years.  Jerusalem started having rallies only a few years ago with heavy police and military protection, and menacing crowds of religious fanatics counter-protesting.

I've never been to Israel, but from what travelers and Israelis themselves tell me, it's a deeply divided country.  The majority of the population lives along the coast, and is quite secular, about as secular as Scandinavia.  About 30% of the population is very pious, some militantly so, especially those in the settler movement.  What adds to the deep mutual resentment between the pious and the secular populations is that most ultra-orthodox are exempt from military service.

Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are not only different cities, but different worlds.  I remember one Israeli friend years ago telling me that Jerusalem is so soaked in religious associations that it literally drives people mad.  Supposedly there is a hospital in Jerusalem that specializes in treating "Jerusalem Syndrome," the madness induced by the city's religious charisma.  Friends tell me that there is a whole wing of that hospital for people who think they are Christ. My friend David Kaplan, who is seriously religious though not a fanatic, found the city to be too much.  After a day praying at various religious sites, he had had enough and went back to his hotel and watched Simpsons reruns.


toujoursdan said...

What's also odd about Israel is that if you are a Jew you must have an Orthodox wedding to really be married, which means meeting halaka requirements and going through Orthodox legal and purity classes. That's unless you are a gentile and then you have to be wed through one of the only eleven recognized religious communities.

There is no such thing as civil marriage in the country and that makes marriage rights for gays or atheists off the table unless you leave and get married somewhere else.

As crazy as church-state issues are in the USA it is still heaps better than there.

Counterlight said...

I knew marriage rules (as well as conversion rules) are very odd in Israel, but I had no idea they were that odd. The added twist in the Israeli problem is that religious matters are so tangled up in matters of national identity.