LGBT leaders hope for peaceful parade tomorrow

Despite scattered threats of protests from a handful of religious activists, organizers of this year’s Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem are cautiously optimistic.

By ABE SELIG
July 28, 2010 04:29
4 minute read.
The Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade.

jlem pride parade 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Despite scattered threats of protests from a handful of religious activists, organizers of this year’s Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem are cautiously optimistic that the capital’s haredi community will keep with recent behavior and refrain from demonstrating against the march when it kicks off on Thursday afternoon.

While the parade has gone smoothly in recent years, memories remain fresh for some members of Jerusalem’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community of the 2005 march, during which Yishai Schlissel, a member of the haredi community, stabbed three participants with a kitchen knife, wounding them all. The following year’s parade was also fraught with raucous protests, although the last three years have been notably docile in comparison.

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Nonetheless, a still-unsolved shooting rampage at a gay and lesbian youth center in Tel Aviv in 2009 has again put the LGBT community on edge.

While this year’s march is inpart a dedication to those who were killed and wounded during that attack, organizers have expressed their hope that themes of tolerance, not violence, will take the center stage.

“Thank god, this year, there have been no threats at all,” Merav Seger-Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, which is organizing the parade, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

Asked why she thought that was the case, Seger-Rodriguez said that, “In recent years, the Open House has initiated dialogue with haredi leaders, and a series of understandings have been reached between the two sides.” The gist of those understandings, Seger-Rodriguez explained, has been a sort of mutual disengagement, in which parade organizers have agreed to steer the march’s route away from haredi neighborhoods, and haredi leaders have agreed to keep their followers away from the parade.

Within the haredi community however, the debate has continued to rage on, with differing voices and views emerging as to how the issue should be approached, if at all.

According to a recent report from the Kol Haredi radio station, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the most respected Ashkenazi haredi authority, called on representatives of Degel Hatorah, the Lithuanian faction of United Torah Judaism, to do whatever they could to prevent the “abomination.”

The report however, did not mention public protest, which would inevitably draw attention in the haredi street to homosexuality.

According to haredi Web site Kikar Hashabat, the head of the ultra-Orthodox Eda Haredit’s rabbinic court (Badatz), Rabbi Tuvia Weiss, had expressed his objection to publicly protesting against the march, and voiced his concern that a haredi demonstration against the march could become violent.

In favor of such a protest is Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, one of the Eda Haredit’s senior adjudicators, under whose name posters have been plastered in haredi areas calling on the public to protest against the “rebels angering god in the streets of the Holy city.”

Nonetheless, this year’s parade is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. in the capital’s Independence Park.

At 5:45 p.m., the crowd will begin marching towards the Knesset, passing Paris Square and heading down Rupin Street, before ending up at the Wohl Rose Garden, where a number of speakers – among them Knesset members, celebrities and artists – will address the crowd.

While the parade is traditionally held in June, this year’s march was purposely postponed in order to coincide with last year’s youth center shooting and to commemorate its victims.

Although police Insp.-Gen.

David Cohen on Tuesday told reporters during a tour of Netanya and Kfar Saba that he “still believes the murders will be solved,” police still have no leads in the attack, which claimed the lives of Nir Katz, 24, and Liz Trobashi, 27.

Fifteen others were wounded in the shooting spree, when a masked gunman stormed into the youth center on Tel Aviv’s Rehov Nahmani, and opened fire with what is presumed to have been an assault rifle.

The Jerusalem Open House announced in May that it had decided to hold this year’s march in a “unique way, dedicating the coming year to the promotion of the LGBT community’s rights, especially in light of political declarations made at last year’s remembrance rally [after the attack].”

The march will also mark the launch of “LGBT Community Rights Year,” in which community members will demand that the Knesset, government ministries and society significantly progress in promoting equal rights for the LGBT community as well as eradicate incitement and violent discourse against them, the organization said in a statement.

Jonah Mandel contributed to this report.


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