Organizers promise “‘powerful’ replacement event
This year’s GLBT WorldPride parade, scheduled for Aug. 10 in Jerusalem, has been canceled because local police say they can’t protect it.
However, organizer Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the gay community center Jerusalem Open House, says there will be an alternative public event Aug. 10, and that other WorldPride events Aug. 6-12 will go ahead as scheduled.
In a telephone interview, El-Ad declined to give details of the replacement event but suggested it will be “powerful.”
“The alternative action in Jerusalem will focus on expressing our outrage at the ongoing violence and incitement in the name of religion against our community,” he said. “People in Jerusalem will be participating in a public activist event that will make a very powerful statement.”
Because anti-gay Orthodox Jews threatened to stage massive counterdemonstrations, Jerusalem police had planned to bring in officers from other cities to help protect the WorldPride march.
But, because of the new war with Hezbollah guerrillas and Lebanon, those officers are not available. In addition, some members of Jerusalem’s police force have been deployed outside of the city, closer to the war zones.
“The police are saying that for them to provide ample security they need to bring substantial reinforcements from other parts of the country,” El-Ad said. “We appreciate the sincerity in that statement. Last year it took many hundreds of police to protect the Jerusalem pride march, and the police preparations for this year’s march were in the thousands of officers.”
El-Ad said that unlike last year, when the Orthodox community mostly ignored the annual local pride parade and “only a few hundred people rioted against us This year the Orthodox community realized that WorldPride has so much visibility that it is impossible to ignore the event.”
“Orthodox Jews living in Orthodox neighborhoods now know that they are not alone,” he said. “Now in the Orthodox neighborhoods there is unprecedented visibility for homosexuality, there is a conversation. It’s a very hateful and inciting conversation, but I don’t think there is one closeted gay person in a conservative neighborhood in Jerusalem who doesn’t now know that there is a gay community.”
In recent weeks, Mayor Uri Lupolianski, right-wing politicians and Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious figures had called for cancellation of WorldPride, arguing, in essence, that it’s an outrage for sinners to flaunt their deviance on the streets of a “holy city.”
At last year’s gay pride parade, ultra-Orthodox protester Yishai Schlissel stabbed three marchers and was later convicted of attempted murder.
“I came to murder on behalf of God,” Schlissel told police. “We can’t have such abomination in the country.”
The most seriously injured of the victims, Adam David Russo, suffered deep gashes to his hand, arm and chest. “They tried to murder me because I’m gay,” he told the Haaretz newspaper at the time. “Now I view my community activism almost as a mission.”
But such hostility is far from universal. Israeli courts have issued numerous gay-friendly rulings in recent years and, this past May, Jerusalem’s District Court ordered the city to fund Open House’s activities, including the annual Pride march.
The municipality was instructed to give Open House $77,566 in funding that was denied in the years 2003-2005, and to stop discriminating in its future funding of nonprofit groups.
Meanwhile, some individuals and groups, including Lebanon’s leading gay organization, Helem, are opposing WorldPride for entirely different reasons. Some have called for a boycott.
“The unfortunate decision was made to hold WorldPride in Jerusalem under the slogan “‘Love Without Borders,’” Helem said in a statement. “Helem strongly condemns holding WorldPride in a city beleaguered by violence and conflict, and where the words “‘Love Without Borders’ belie a reality of separation, ubiquitous borders, destruction of homes and livelihoods, land theft, gross human rights violations and the apartheid policies of Israel.”
The statement continued: “We would also like to state our support of the initiative organized by Aswat Palestinian Gay Women and other progressive Palestinian and international organizations, who offered an open invitation to those who decide to come to Jerusalem for WorldPride to speak with LGBT Palestinians, visit unrecognized and demolished Palestinian villages, meet with anti-occupation activists and join an alternative parade demonstrating against the apartheid wall.”
WorldPride, which was last held in 2000 in Rome, is licensed by InterPride, the International Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Coordinators.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, July 28, 2006.