Gays In Jerusalem Rally Under Tight Security

Jerusalem Gay PrideJERUSALEM – A few thousand gays and their supporters rallied in Jerusalem on Friday under heavy security, going ahead with a festival that has sparked religious protests and highlighted deep divisions in Israeli society.
Gays, lesbians and civil rights activists waved rainbow flags representing gay pride and held up banners in a small stadium where the rally took place. Dance music echoed across the stadium, creating a carnival atmosphere.
Two men dressed as sperm handed out condoms.
Organisers had planned a gay pride street parade but cancelled it after police said they needed to beef up security to guard against threatened Palestinian attacks following a deadly Israeli army shelling attack in Gaza this week.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews had also threatened to disrupt the march through the holy city. There have been nightly protests in Jerusalem’s religious neighbourhoods against the parade.
“Why are they pushing us back in the closet? There is more than one way to be a Jew,” said Yossi Gilad, 36, from Tel Aviv, who works for a non-governmental organisation.
One woman held a poster that read: “I am a proud Jewish lesbian.”
Police said they arrested several religious youths near the venue who were carrying knives and brass knuckles. There were also a few minor scuffles between right-wing opponents of the event and gay rights activists in the city but little violence.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews view homosexuality as an abomination.
“This is not the homo-land, this is the holy land,” said Rabbi Yehuda Levin, a member of one Orthodox organisation.
“Today is a great victory for religious power. The sodomites are back in the figurative closet. They are not free to provoke.”
Some 3,000 police deployed to secure the event and set up checkpoints on all routes to the stadium to prevent ultra-Orthodox Jews and other protesters entering. Many roads were also blocked.
The move to hold the rally in the Givat Ram stadium came after Palestinian vows to revenge Israel’s shelling of a northern Gaza town on Wednesday, which killed 19 civilians.
Israel said the carnage was the result of a “technical failure” by Israeli artillery. The army had said it was targeting rocket launchers.
The ultra-Orthodox and many other Israelis had seen the planned march in Jerusalem as a provocation against religion.
Debate about the march had also exposed deep fissures in Israeli society, caught between its vocal religious community and a desire to be seen as progressive and “modern”.
Gay pride festivals have been held each year in Jerusalem since 2001, but this year’s was billed as being bigger and better, causing greater outrage than before.
Organisers say the event promotes understanding, tolerance and open-mindedness.
The festival had been scheduled for August but was postponed because of Israel’s war with Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.
from Reuters

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