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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
A group of 200 gays held a silent protest vigil in Jerusalem's Liberty Bell Park on Thursday evening, after their long-planned international parade was canceled due to the war in Lebanon.
The heavily guarded demonstration, which was ignored by the city's haredi community, was allowed to take place after organizers adhered to the conditions police had set for it, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said.
The event was marred when a group of anarchists joined the gathering and began waving placards against the war in Lebanon and shouting slogans against the IDF. Police forcibly prevented them from approaching the sidewalk on the edge of the park and detained a protester who unfurled a PLO flag.
The low-key event, which was one-fifth the size organizers had originsally planned, came near the culmination of six-day World Pride Event in Jerusalem, which was overshadowed by the war and the police decision to bar a planned parade through the streets.
A huge red banner at the protest read "Jerusalem is for all," while rainbow-colored placards included such slogans as "The Path to God is not always straight" and "Senseless hatred."
"We believe that the holiness of Jerusalem is increased by this city being the center of tolerance and coexistence," said Rabbi Ayelet Cohen, 32, who lead a delegation from New York City's Congregation Beth Simhat Torah, the world's largest gay and lesbian synagogue.
She added that organizers understood that the tone had to be "appropriate" during wartime when "the voices of tolerance and hope are all the more essential."
Some motorists shouted at the protesters to go to Lebanon or relocate to the Gaza Strip.
"At a time when Jewish blood is being spilt in Lebanon, all that these self-indulgent narcissistic, selfish, perverted people can think about is engaging in sodomy," said New York Rabbi Yehuda Levin, of the Orthodox Rabbinical Alliance of America and the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the US and Canada, who has been spearheading an international campaign against the parade.
Levin, who was prevented by police from entering the park lest there be a violent confrontation, slammed police for "wimping out like French poodles" in not stopping the gathering.
Ben-Ruby noted that the event was not dispersed since protesters did not move out into the streets, block traffic or use bullhorns.
A parade was nixed last month, when police said they were unable to allocate sufficient forces needed to secure such a major event due to the war.
The international gay festival, which was originally scheduled to take place last year and had already been postponed until August due to last summer's Gaza pullout, has been widely criticized by Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders in Jerusalem and around the world as a deliberate affront and provocation to millions of believers.
The idea of holding an international gay parade in Jerusalem was seen by many residents as out of touch with both the spiritual character of the city and the sensitivities of its observant residents.
A public opinion poll released last year found that three-quarters of Jerusalem residents were opposed to holding the international gay event.