Bar-Ilan University in Israel, a religious university founded on Zionist Orthodox principles, has banned a gay pride event, saying that LGBT students should instead hold an event with rabbis and psychologists who could “offer help” for them.
After public outcry, and a meeting with LGBT students and representatives of the administration, the university eventually lifted the ban.
The event was scheduled for June 22, and would be sensitive to the Orthodox views of many of the students. According to the students, Dean of Students Professor Uri Nur said that the university did not want a public Pride event. Omer Mahluf, head of the LGBT chapter, said that a public event was extremely important:
because on campus there is a very large population of students who belong to the LGBT community, but are at different stages of the process of accepting their sexual identity and coming out, and therefore don’t come to the chapter’s regular meetings, and also won’t go to an isolated event held in a closed auditorium.
The university suggested instead that the event be changed to an academic panel in a closed auditorium featuring individuals pre-approved by the school, writes Hayah Coldlist-Eichler of the Jerusalem Post. They made an allusion to speakers that could help the audience, evoking images of “conversion therapy” which has been found to be damaging to gender and sexual minorities, notes Failed Messiah.
The head of the National Student Union, Gilad Arditi, said:
Given that fact that the gay chapter in Bar-Ilan includes all the complex components of humanity at the institution and acts in considerate and non-provocative ways, we don’t see any reason that they should no mark gay month, and of course [we] support their actions.
According to Stuart Winer of the Times of Israel, the administration maintains that they have been misrepresented, and said in a statement:
Taking into consideration the religious character of the university, in light of the fact that the event that the students requested to hold was not connected to academic or student activities, the administration notified the students that it will allow an avent that has an academic nature in one of the campus halls, a symposium or panel that deals with the relevant subjects for the gay community. The university offered the students help with organizing the event and finding participants and speakers. Unfortunately, the organizers chose, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to misrepresent the university’s offer to help organize the event.
One campus spokesperson, Haim Zisowitz, said that allowing a public event for gender and sexual minorities was comparable to promoting pedophilia, according to i24 News. LGBT activists have found this comparison unacceptable, though Zisowitz maintains that they are both examples of actions that break Orthodox religious law.
President Reuvin Rivlin, however, welcomed members of the Israeli Gay Youth organization to the President’s Residence in celebration of Pride Month.