The 2006 Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade took on a new name and format Thursday, with organizers expressing satisfaction that despite the last-minute changes, the event will be held in Jerusalem at the planned date and time. Now known as "All the Colors of the Rainbow," its location was shifted a second time and the march segment canceled. The final version consists of a rally at the Hebrew University Stadium at Givat Ram, which was supposed to be the terminus of the parade after it was moved from downtown to the government compound.
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On Wednesday, after raising their alert level following the tragic artillery strike in Beit Hanun, police said they did not have sufficient manpower to both protect the parade and prevent reprisal terrorist attacks. Police held a top-level planning session early Thursday morning in which Insp.-Gen Moshe Karadi announced that Jerusalem District Police chief Cmdr. Ilan Franco had presented a plan to move the march to a location that would be easier to secure.
Although the parade's sponsor, the Jerusalem Open House, withdrew its opposition to a postponement a day earlier, the plan to hold the event in an enclosed area was accepted by all the parties on Thursday.
Police said that 3,000 police officers would secure the event, now set to take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. Jerusalem District Police spokesmen said "police intend to operate stubbornly against any attempt" to violate public order in the capital.
Later Thursday, Jerusalem police said that all of the anti-parade protests that had been granted licenses had been canceled following a series of meetings between Franco and haredi leaders, who included former Sephardi chief rabbi Mordechai Eliahu.
Following the meetings, the militant Eda Haredit organization agreed to call off the anti-gay demonstrations that have recently spread throughout the country. Rabbis Yitzhak Tuvia Weiss and Moshe Sternbach, senior members of the Edah Haredit, also accepted the compromise that would see the gay pride rally take place in a closed area.
Weiss and Sternbach requested the immediate release of haredi anti-demonstrators who were arrested for violent behavior over the past few weeks, but police rejected the request.
The Eda Haredit, which spearheaded the struggle against the march, coordinated the compromise deal with Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv, leader of the haredi Lithuanian community, and Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
Ya'acov Krishovsky, a spokesman for the Eda Haredit, said that under the agreement, the Open House would not be permitted to hold any activities outside the complex Friday. In addition, vehicles arriving at the parade venue will not carry provocative signs, he said.
Some anti-parade activists see the compromise as a victory, albeit a limited one. "I think we managed to push them back into the closet," ZAKA rescue and recovery organization founder and anti-parade petitioner Yehuda Meshi-Zahav told Channel 2 Thursday night.
The rabbis also demanded that the Jerusalem Open House refrain from asking to hold another parade or similar event this year.
"I think the Israel Police did everything it could do to eliminate all of the dangers and to find a peaceful solution to the Pride March," Franco said on Thursday evening as his officers began to arrive at the stadium.
"We received cooperation from all of the groups with whom we met today. All we can hope for now is that rational behavior will prevail," he said.
Anti-gay march activists used donkeys, ponies and sheep Thursday in a demonstration dubbed "The Animal March" that equated homosexuality with bestiality.
The procession of animals and demonstrators, which began at the Knesset and ended at the nearby Science Museum, followed the Gay Pride Parade's original planned route.
"I am a proud animal," read one handwritten sign draped over a donkey. "Sodom, Jerusalem" read a sign sported by a pony.
Haredi yeshiva students and settler youth, who made up the majority of the approximately 200 demonstrators, clapped and sang "Old McDonald had a Farm."
Yehuda Epstein, a spokesman for Komemiyut, a settler youth movement that organized the march, denied that the use of animals was an attempt to dehumanize or humiliate homosexuals.
"We are just trying to say that those people's choice is not an alternative culture, it is a sickness that needs to be treated," he said.
Epstein said police refused a request to allow the use of camels, cows and large horses.
The two-hour demonstration was conducted peacefully and with no counterprotests.
The High Court of Justice rejected a petition by animals' rights organization Let the Animals Live asking to stop the march because it constituted cruelty to animals.