During the summer of 2006 I was in the West Bank. Israel was at war in Lebanon and making incursions into Gaza, and, whilst in Bethlehem and East Jerusalem, I was told that several Palestinians had been arrested as suspected suicide bombers. I travelled to Ramallah, stopping between checkpoints; I walked beside and in the shadow of the security wall, looked out from one hill that is Israel towards another that is Palestine and thought of this poem.
A Jewish Perspective
Towards a Jewish 'Queer' (Liberation) Theology
Emerging in the 1980s and flourishing during the 1990s ‘queer’ politics arrived as a reaction to what ‘queer’ activists and theorists identified as the narrow identity politics, rigid categories and separate groupings that had become associated with the lesbian and gay movements. In contrast to these rigid categories ‘queer’ politics proclaimed that all identities – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, even some heterosexual identities – could merge into a general ‘queerness’. The term ‘queer’ was understood then by many ‘queer’ activists and theorists in a very broad sense: referring not only to homosexuality and lesbianism but to everything that diverges from the ‘norm’. It became a response to mainstream hetero- normative/straight thinking of all kinds; its oppositional approach probably being best summed up in the slogan: ‘We’re here, we’re queer - get used to it!’ As sociologist Joshua Gamson wrote: ‘“Queer” does not so much rebel against outsider status, it revels in it’.
Rabbi Sheila Shulman z’l was my teacher/mentor and friend. For years I spent many Friday afternoons in conversation with her. This article attempts to capture something of that time, and also something of the cadence and character of a conversation that I continue to have with her.