Jerusalem's Gay Pride Parade Marred by Security Fears


Nov. 10, 2006 — -- At Jerusalem's Gay Pride Parade this year, the pride was hidden behind a wall of Israeli security forces.

Gay leaders on Thursday canceled the public parade in Jerusalem amid security concerns and pressure from fundamentalist religious leaders.

They were forced to relocate the annual event, now in its fifth year, to the soccer stadium at Hebrew University and stage it as a rally.

At least 3,000 Israeli police officers have surrounded the stadium to protect those participating in the parade from threats of violence and death that have dogged the event since organizers began planning.

Gil Nevah, 23, has lived an openly gay lifestyle since his early teens and has called Jerusalem his home his entire life.

He wonders why there is such a problem with staging such an event in the holy city.

But some residents wonder why the gay community is demanding the event be held in Jerusalem, where the vast majority of residents are religious.

"I am a Jerusalem guy," Nevah said. "Grew up here, lived my whole life here. It is my right to have the parade here in the city."

Nevah says the Jerusalem he knows is an international city that welcomes all faiths and cultures.

This is the first year the Gay Pride Parade has stirred such anger.

There has been rioting in Mea She'arim, Jerusalem's ultra-orthodox neighborhood, every night for the last several weeks leading up to today's event.

The opposition to the parade has been overwhelming. The Vatican weighed in early in the week, demanding that the event be canceled for fear of offending "the sensibilities of religious communities."

Banning the parade has been one of the few issues the leaders of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities have agreed on in this embattled city.

But the ultra-orthodox community in Jerusalem has expanded rapidly and now influences almost all corners of the city.

In most neighborhoods, it is difficult to buy pork and you are not allowed to drive your car on the Sabbath. The religious parties now control 18 of the 31 seats in Jerusalem city.

The mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lupolianski, who is ultra-orthodox, wrote an editorial this week, saying the Gay Pride Parade was not acceptable under any circumstances.

Hoda Amam, who runs the Centre for Jerusalem Studies, has seen the ultra-orthodox exerting more and more control over the city.

"In this case, they are influential, but I hope the seculars can make a point to make Jerusalem not just a very Jewish city," Amam said.

Meanwhile, Nevah refuses to be bullied by all the threats and says he expects to be able to continue celebrating his homosexuality.