By Jonathan Danilowitz
E-book published by Jonathan Danilowitz at Smashwords.com
$3.99. 65,810 words.
Jonathan Danilowitz is best known in Israel for his lawsuit against El Al, after the company at which he worked for many years as an in-flight manager refused to grant spousal benefits to his common-law male partner. In 1995, the case reached the Supreme Court which ruled in his favor; a decision seen as a groundbreaking precedent protecting the civil rights of homosexuals.
But what lay behind this public trial? What convoluted road led this conventional Jewish, ostensibly heterosexual man from Krugersdorp to such an open declaration of his sexual orientation? Now aged 67, Danilowitz has written an e-book book that describes his journey.
Like that of many homosexuals, it wasn't an easy one. Denial, self-hatred, pain and remorse were all part of the process; no wonder that the suicide rate for young homosexuals is said to be four times that of heterosexuals. Eventually, he found the courage to acknowledge openly that he was gay, and to find a stable life with his partner of more than 30 years, who is a Tel Aviv lawyer.
I was taken by this book's honesty and intimacy. I don't mean in a sexual sense (although there are a few pages of that too), but because Danilowitz isn't afraid to be open about his feelings and experiences, no matter how naïve or foolish they might have been at the time. This is homosexuality seen from the inside, not the outside. For many heterosexual readers, it will open a window to the experience of what it is really like to be gay.
Particularly moving was his tale of how he found the courage to tell his mother. For years he hid the fact that he was gay from her, on the grounds that she was too old, too conservative and too old-fashioned. The real reason, he admits, was that he was afraid she would reject him. He writes: "Homosexual men and women still face so many stumbling blocks. But their greatest impediment is to overcome the rejection of those most dear to them – their families. Most of the obstacles pale into insignificance if the family at least does not reject the gay person." He was one of the lucky ones; after the initial shock, his mother openly accepted and supported him.
As for the High Court decision that ended as high drama, the whole process took years and when it was finally due to be settled, Danilowitz was too terrified of the publicity to stay in Israel. He took a work assignment in Bombay, and by chance, was staying at the same hotel as the visiting Israel Philharmonic Orchestra when the news broke. Zubin Mehta congratulated him by inviting him to the orchestra's gala concert, which was where he celebrated.
Of course, there has been much more to his life than his sexual orientation, and Danilowitz has many tales to tell of his experiences on the airlines he worked for – some very funny and some, such as a terrorist attack in London and an emergency landing – quite terrifying. He has many other interests, including marathon running and environmental and animal rights issues.
But there can be no doubt that the process of coming to terms with homosexuality is the central message of the book. In Danilowitz's experience, homosexuality was neither a choice nor a mental disorder that can be cured, as some claim, but a fact of birth.
This book convincingly makes the case that for society to demand that a homosexual orientation be changed to a heterosexual one is useless. You might as well demand that people who are blind open their eyes and see, or, like King Canute, command the waves to stop rolling in. One can only imagine the agonies that Jewish Orthodox homosexuals, faced with the contradiction between the Biblical prohibition and their natural tendencies, must suffer.
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