Imminent Holy War

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The fight over Jerusalem’s gay pride parade just intensified. Apparently, Jerusalem Police Chief Ilan Franko met with Ultra-Orthodox leader Yitzhak Tuvia Weiss on Sunday to discuss protests promised by the latter’s constituents.

YNet quotes the Kol-Haredi phone hotline (which provides news to the Ultra-Orthodox — presumably for those without televisions or radios) as reporting that:

“The spiritual leader was clear. We will not give up. We will not come to any dialogue or negotiation. We’re talking about our souls and our obligations to oppose such things and erase this abomination from the holy city, Jerusalem…

…we understand that Franko has the power to cancel the parade if he feels that there is a danger to human life. This is what we are trying to make him understand – there is a danger and there will be a holy war on this issue.”

I can’t find a record of the Hebrew original, so I don’t know what term for “holy war” was used, but it would be interesting to know whether a traditional, halakhic (Jewish legal) concept is being invoked here. In threatening violence against gay pride marchers, are these Haredim relying on an ethical position embedded in Jewish law? Or is this “holy war” a religious innovation of sorts, an extra-legal response to an ethos they reject?

Of course, this intellectual curiosity shouldn’t overshadow the horror of this situation. Whatever your feelings about the pride parade in Jerusalem, it’s never pleasant to see one set of Jews declaring holy war against another.

(For some background info on gay life and issues in Israel, see Lee Walzer’s article on MJL.)

Posted on October 30, 2006

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