Thursday, June 25, 2009

Gay Pride vs Parkling lots...and of course, the children!

Israeli culture is like study in the most fluid contrasts. What amounts to a logical conclusion anywhere else has no relevance in studying the Israelis and past behaviour is not necessarily the yardstick used to predicting current behaviour.

Case in point – the Gay Pride parade is to held this weekend in Jerusalem and the Charedim have protested previous Gay Pride parades in rather large turnouts. But not this year, instead, it has been decided to ignore it, and the Charedim have moved on to protesting much more important matters – well, at least more important this year – like protesting the opening of a public parking lot on the Sabbath. Yes, a parking lot. Although, I wouldn't characterize it as a plus in tolerance and acceptance column. Ha'aretz:
Today's Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem is not expected to stir violent protests, police sources say.

They expect the highly controversial event to run smoothly because leaders of the ultra-Orthodox community - who in past years have led anti-gay protests - decided to cease from protesting to avoid exposing their young people to the subject. As a result, only 1,600 police officers will be assigned to the parade, compared with 12,000 in 2006.

Nobody can throw a riot like the Charedim and the possibility for riot still looms large over the parking lot issue - again. The Jerusalem Post:

With the clock ticking, a Jerusalem court on Wednesday postponed until Sunday a hearing over the opening of an alternate parking lot in the city on Shabbat instead of the municipality's underground garage, but left open the possibility for the two sides to reach an out-of-court agreement before this weekend.

The Jerusalem District Court's decision left unanswered the critical question of whether a deal to open the Carta parking lot opposite the Jaffa Gate, which is under receivership, would be reached by Saturday in place of the municipal car park at nearby city hall, or whether it would take more time to reach an accord. The timing was especially critical since massive haredi protests were planned for Friday night and Saturday if the municipal car park is reopened this weekend.

But a little further on in the article another tidbit into Israeli life leaks out, and surprisingly enough, it touches on an issue which rose in Toronto during the Tamal protests.

In light of the violent protests at Kikar Safra earlier this month, the Knesset Committee for Children's Rights met Wednesday to discuss the participation of children in the protests.

The Criminal Code of 1977 places criminal responsibility upon parents for "taking an action that would endanger a child's well-being" - a clause that some MKs took to include participation in a possibly violent protest.

A series of speakers blasted the decision to involve children in the protests, but former operations director for the Eidah Haredit and current Zaka Rescue Service Chairman Yehudah Meshi Zahav said that "bringing children to a demonstration that is against disgracing Shabbat is part of educating our children. We educate them to adhere to their values - not just when it is comfortable but also when there is a price."

"I also got hit by water cannons when I was a boy during demonstrations against violating Shabbat," said Meshi-Zahav "In our community, a person whose son was arrested in a protest gets an aliya to the Torah on Shabbat." Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, chairman of the Council for the Well-Being of the Child responded that "use of children in protests is negative in any group, not just for haredim. Use of children in protests is a gimmick that works," he said.

A fiery debate broke out between Kadman and Meshi-Zahav in which Kadman argued that "haredi parents are more responsible than what Meshi-Zahav described" and the Zaka head responded that "parents who don't bring their children to demonstrations didn't get good education like I did. Children are the best soldiers during protests and I have never seen a child who developed trauma from participating in one."
I wish a fly on the wall when the 'fiery debate broke out' just for the entertainment value of it all. I have to admit guilt on this issue. I am one of those kind of parents who has taken children to demonstrations and protests. In fact, my oldest son wouldn't dream of letting me go by myself to stand for Israel when protesting against the pro-Hezbollah demonstrations held in Toronto without him by my side. Although, he never got called to the Torah for it and the best he could hope for was a meal after.

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