Gay parade tensions rise in Tel Aviv

"If we can't march in J'lem, you won't walk in TA," sprayed on TA synagogue.

By ETGAR LEFKOVITS, JPOST.COM STAFF
October 31, 2006 19:40
3 minute read.
gay pride j'lem 224.88

gay pride jlem 224.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

 
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The windows of the Geulot Israel synagogue on Tel Aviv's Shenkin Street were smashed overnight Wednesday, and the words, "If we can't march in Jerusalem, you won't walk in Tel Aviv," were spray-painted on the synagogue walls, police said. A police investigation was underway, as well as a search for the perpetrators of the vandalism.

  • Religious gays keep faith despite hatred The synagogue attack was likely a response to outcries on the part of the religious community, which have escalated into riots in Israel's capital city against the planned Gay Pride Parade, scheduled to take place in Jerusalem on November 11. Meanwhile, ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav filed a petition with the High Court of Justice on Thursday against the intention to hold the November 10 parade. Meshi-Zahav is asking the court to order the police not to authorize the parade since, according to the ZAKA head, it would lead to violent protests and would put the public at risk. For the second day in a row, about one hundred haredim rioted in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood on Wednesday against next week's planned parade, police said. The protesters pelted police and motorists with stones, and set garbage bins on fire blocking traffic in the street, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. Two demonstrators suspected of attacking a cab and bus driver who chanced upon the demonstration were arrested by police. Three police officers were lightly wounded by stones during the violent protest. Eight of the demonstrators were detained by police for allegedly taking part in the violence. Meanwhile, Jerusalem police chief Ilan Franco met late Wednesday night with officials in the State Attorney's office to discuss the legal justifications of banning the parade. Earlier Wednesday, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said that next week's planned parade in Jerusalem would be cancelled if the event severely disrupts police operations. His comments were the clearest indication to date that police were weighing banning the event -- or at least curtailing it -- amidst mounting public opposition and threats of violence. A final police decision on the parade is expected in the coming days. The prerogative for issuing permits for public events rests with police, who could ban the move due to concerns over public safety. Protests against the parade broke out Tuesday night in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, as hundreds of haredim pelted police with stones and blocks in protest against the planned event. 14 suspects were arrested for allegedly taking part in the violence. The debate over the event, which is slated to take place next Friday, mirrors a similar controversy over this summer's planned international gay parade in Jerusalem, which was eventually cancelled due to the war in Lebanon. The burgeoning opposition to the local city parade has again united an unusual cross-party and inter-faith coalition of Conservative Orthodox Rabbis, Muslims, and Christians who call the event a deliberate affront and provocation to millions of believers around the world. Supporters of the parade counter that freedom of speech enables them to hold the event in Jerusalem, as a symbol of tolerance and pluralism, even if theirs is the view of the minority of residents in the city. The two-year-old public debate over the holding the international gay parade in Jerusalem in the last two years has only served to intensify the struggle over the local parade. The local organizers of the event, still smarting over having to cancel two international parades in the city in as many years, have appealed to the High Court of Justice to to force police to approve the local event, while haredi and religious opponents of the parade have warned police of plans for a massive "million-strong" counter-protest against the event in an effort to show that the parade poses a danger to public safety and is a threat to peace. Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Yaacov Edri condemned the threats of violence, but said the event was not fitting for Jerusalem. He has repeatedly urged organizers to relocate the parade to a different city. The parade is slated to take place through the streets of central Jerusalem, and will not enter religious neighborhoods, or the Old City. If police decide to ban the event, they would need to explain their reasoning to the High Court of Justice. The annual local parade, which draws several thousand participants every year, has been the source of repeated debate, with many religious city councilors and a not insignificant number of largely-traditional city residents considering such an event inappropriate for a "holy" city. The organization has held four previous gay parades in the city. The last gay parade in the city was marred by violence after a haredi attacker stabbed three participants in the event. The assailant is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence.

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