University relents, allows Gay Pride event

University relents, allows Gay Pride event

After criticism, Bar-Ilan reaches compromise with LGBT group; open discussion to go ahead Sunday

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Flags seen during the Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv, June 7, 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Flags seen during the Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv, June 7, 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

An Israeli university with a religious Zionist bent reached a compromise with an LGBT group Thursday, allowing a public Gay Pride Month event to be held on campus.

The Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan drew condemnation from the National Student Union and the Israeli media for its refusal to hold the event and for statements made by a university spokesperson comparing a Gay Pride event to a rally in support of pedophilia.

Earlier this week, the university refused to host an outdoor event, suggesting instead a symposium featuring rabbis and psychologists who could also “offer the participants help.”

Following a decision reached in a Thursday meeting between the leader of the LGBT group Omer Mahluf and the administration, the student organization will be permitted to host its event in the university’s law department on Sunday from noon-6 p.m.

“We will hold an open discussion and increase the LGBT visibility on the university campus, while respecting the character of the institution,” Mahluf said.

According to a report in Haaretz, university spokesperson Haim Zisowitz explained on Wednesday that homosexual acts are against halacha — traditional Jewish law — and that, as a religious institution, the university couldn’t appear to condone such activities.

“The university has a religious character, and the subject of same-sex relationships is halachically forbidden for men, a clear halachic prohibition,” he said. “Therefore, you can’t allow, in a religious university, a call to commit an act that transgresses a halachic prohibition.”

To hold such an event, he continued, “is to say that we are in favor — without making a comparison, and don’t get me wrong — but a group that says, ‘We want and believe in pedophilia, in permitting sex with minors, and we want to have a happening’ — every call to break the law is a problem and those are the laws of the Torah.”

The National Student Union responded to the decision, saying: “The Union will take part in the production of the event along with the pride group. We see this compromise as the actualization of the values that we trumpet of equality, tolerance and acceptance of the other.”

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