Posted by: RaeAn | 7 August 2010

Homoland in the Holyland

I’m a total slacker and should have posted about this days ago, but I’ve been keeping myself busy. Which is good, for the most part, but alas, it does keep me from blogging three times a week. I’ll aim for at least once a week even once things get actually busy, though! So last Thursday, I marched in the Jerusalem Pride Parade along with several other HUC students. It was certainly different from Pride Parades in the US, or even Tel Aviv, for that matter. It was held on the one-year anniversary of the shooting at the Bar-Noar LGBT youth center in Tel Aviv (article) and it was more of a political statement and a march than a celebration and a parade. (So alas, no dancing half-naked cowboys this time around… but I’ll get those back once I get back to the US, I suppose.)

I met up with other HUC students, and we gathered in Gan HaAtzma’ut (Independence Park) before marching to the Knesset (parliament).

I have yet another photo album online if you want to see all of the photographic evidence:

Chuck also came down from Tel Aviv for the march, and I went to dinner with him and some of his Israeli friends afterward. (We spoke mostly Hebrew… yay for practicing!)

Chuck & myself getting ready to march!

Classmates Dusty and Beni chat as we wait for the march to begin! Beni has his lovely rainbow kippah on. He's a straight ally and bought the rainbow one, as he tells the story, because it's the style of kippah that right-wingers often wear... so he bought the rainbow one to counteract potentially being seen as right-wing. I think it works. 🙂

Of course, there were bound to be counter-protesters... This one's sign says "march of the beasts." Rawr!

Here, let's make a deal: I'll go "strait" when you learn how to spell. 🙂

This is the best one of them all. I'm so excited to be living in Homoland right now. Woohoo!

And now, back to us. There were so many people! It went much farther than this picture can show, but here we're rounding a bend on our way to the Knesset.

We even had our own mounted guards to make sure nothing happened. There were supposedly a few small incidents after everything wrapped up, but otherwise, it was fairly calm. I heard a rumor that not as many ultra-religious people came out this time because they didn't want their kids being exposed to homosexuality for the first time and "catching" it, so they stayed away to protect their families. People are silly sometimes. Oh, also: "I'm on a horse."

We finally arrived to the park behind the Knesset! Here's the stage for the rally. It says "צועדים לשוויון" which means "we march for equality." It was sort of the slogan of the event.

A bunch of HUC kids at the rally! It's a horrible picture, I know, but I didn't get any good ones of people, so you can deal with it. Future rabbis for gay rights!

I got a rainbow flag with the Jewish star! I'll be adding it to my collection of Pride paraphernalia. I like it.

That’s that. It remains to be seen whether the march itself will have any real effect on anything, but at the very least, it was a show of numbers that people in Jerusalem care and want to work for gay rights in this country.

Also on a queer note: my Truma project!

Everyone at HUC has to do what’s called a Truma project; it’s pretty open-ended, but it’s some sort of community service project. They have some cookie-cutter projects that you can sign up for, but I wanted to work with the LGBT community, so I’m going outside of the box.

I went to Jerusalem Open House, the LGBT center in Jerusalem, and spoke with Yaron, the community program coordinator. Starting in September, I’ll be coordinating the English-speakers program at JOH! I’m super-excited. I’ll be working with the queer community, in Israel, and it’s school-sanctioned.

I have to work on brainstorming ideas for what to do — Yaron said it’s very open-ended. Past coordinators have done things like pizza & beer nights; game nights; movies; speakers; book discussions… I have to figure out what would be both  (a) interesting enough for people to want to come and (b) substantial, since purely-social things are already happening and this should be a little more than that. Any ideas are warmly welcome. 🙂 Most of the participants in this group are students (study-abroad kids at Hebrew University, for instance) and new olim (immigrants), so it’s on the younger side — Yaron said generally ages 21-28 or so, but there are always a few outliers — so at least it’s people my age and I can gauge interest to some extent fairly easily by bouncing ideas off of my classmates.

In other news, we’re halfway through Ulpan! Three weeks down, three more to go. Crazy to think I’ve been here for a month already.

To celebrate the halfway point in ulpan, every class prepared a song to teach and perform in front of everyone else. (In Hebrew, of course.) We did Mitachat laShamayim (by David Broza, YouTube video of him performing it here). It’s a beautiful song. I’m a fan.

But, the interesting part: I also played violin for it! My friend Sari has a violin here in Israel; with about 15 minutes of practice, I managed to figure out a violin part to go with the song and I played and I didn’t completely mess up! Which is definitely exciting since I’ve played my violin maybe half a dozen times since I graduated high school. I might look for a violin to rent or buy here just so I can keep playing. I’m not satisfied with how I played, but I got compliments, so I’m glad I did it.

I have no idea if this link will work for anyone who’s not “friends” with my classmate Mike on Facebook, but here’s a video of the performance. Fast forward to 3:45 for the song — before that, we’re just explaining the lyrics to everyone, which isn’t exciting.

I’m on the very far left, so you can’t see me most of the time. But hey, there you go. If it works for you. Sorry if the link doesn’t work. It’s not on YouTube, just on Facebook.

Other highlights of the past week:

  • HaHaפuch comedy show on Tuesday! My friend Benji started this Anglo (English-speaking) comedy/improve troupe here in Jerusalem, so 6 of us went to a night of improv and giggles on Tuesday.
  • Beit Cafe on Wednesday! We did a little talent show and a silent auction for charity. I didn’t perform anything, though my roommate, Megan, tore it up with some beat-boxing, and I offered two dance lessons in the silent auction. Also, there was a lot of wine.
  • Jerusalem wine festival on Thursday! For 60 NIS (about $15), we went around and drank a lot of good (and sometimes not-so-good) Israeli wine. Good times.
  • Shabbat last night… was interesting. Several of us went to Shira Chadasha, a self-proclaimed “feminist modern Orthodox” congregation, for services. I was not a fan. The fact that there was a mechitza bothered me so deeply that I couldn’t concentrate on praying. The curtain was white and see-through, so we could see the men on the other side, and the leader of the service on the other side, but it was as if the women were observers while the men did the actual praying. I was thoroughly uncomfortable in that sort of setting. A woman did help lead Kabbalat Shabbat, the first part of the service, but we soon as we got to the “real” prayers (Bar’chu and so on), the man took over and it was just awkward and unpleasant. So I left early. I stayed through the Sh’ma and then ducked out to hang out with my friend Iah the rest of the night. But, so it goes. Lesson learned, experience experienced, that’s that. No more services with a mechitza for me. Yich.

Over and out for now! Sorry it took so long to update — our internet has been going in and out, and I can’t even write a post without an active internet connection on this site, so I started this post three days ago and just finally got it finished. Silly technology.


~ Rae



  1. Love the shout-out. And the dancing cowboys reference :)!

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