Thursday, June 21, 2007

While we're in Israel...

Israeli court allows gay pride parade in Jerusalem

20 Jun 2007 2
Source: Reuters

By Corinne Heller

JERUSALEM, June 20 (Reuters) - Israel's High Court gave the go-ahead on Wednesday for a Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem, rejecting last-ditch appeals by conservative Jews who wanted the event scrapped.

Police said thousands of officers would be on hand to secure Thursday's event against possibly violent protests by Jews who, like many devout Muslims and Christians, view homosexuality as an abomination.

Disputes over whether to hold the parade in the holy city have showcased one of many divides in Israeli society and raised questions on how to ensure the religious nature of Jerusalem, sacred to the three major monotheisms, is not compromised.

Civil liberties groups have argued that the annual event signifies pluralism in a city that Israel calls its undivided capital -- though that status has never been recognised abroad.

"The question of 'why in Jerusalem' is not a question. It is the same question as letting women vote," said Dana Olmert, a lesbian daughter of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

"The gay parade is a political event and it is an expression of a political stance. Political activity is something you do, and we do it without needing to ask permission," she told Israel's Army Radio in an interview.

The event has been held in Jerusalem since 2001, but was relocated to a closed a stadium last year due to security concerns. Muslim and Christian leaders have also signalled their opposition to the march in the past.

The Jewish population in Jerusalem is mainly religious. More devout Jews, who have more children, move to the city every year as opposed to its secular population, which is declining.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish protester stabbed and wounded three marchers in a Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem in 2005 despite a heavy police presence. He received a lengthy prison sentence.

Israel also hosts an annual Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv, which is mostly secular, without controversy. About 20,000 people attended one last week.


But things turned ugly rather quickly:

Arrests at Jerusalem gay parade

A Gay Pride march in Jerusalem has been taking place amid tight security, sparking fierce protests among the holy city's religious communities.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man was arrested for planning to bomb the parade, Israeli police said.

Fifteen other people were arrested for throwing stones at police after Israel's High Court rejected an appeal by religious groups to ban the march.

More than 7,000 police were deployed to secure the parade to prevent clashes.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said officers found an explosive device in the bag of the alleged bomb plotter.

"He admitted he planned on planting it on the route of the parade today," Mr Rosenfeld said.

Parade protests

About 2,000 people joined the march, holding bright balloons, singing and holding posters of Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama, the Associated Press news agency reported.

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