4,000 march in 10th annual Jerusalem Pride Parade

J'lem displays gay pride as LGBT community marches; haredim counter-protest: Israel's holy land, not homo land.

Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade (370) (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade (370)
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Four thousand people marched in the 10th annual Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade in the capital on Thursday, waving rainbow flags of all shapes and sizes in the nonviolent protest. In contrast to past years, there were no haredim standing along the way, protesting the parade.

For the first time since 2005, the parade returned to its original route, making its way down King George and Keren Hayesod streets, stopping to observe a moment of silence at the spot where three participants were stabbed in 2005 by a haredi extremist.Adam Russo, who was injured in the stabbing, addressed the crowd before the parade began.“Against violence, you can never give up,” he said. “If you give up, it will only get stronger, it will only be legitimized.”Russo also condemned activists who accuse Israel of “pinkwashing,” by highlighting Israel’s tolerance for the gay community as an excuse for other human rights violations. “There is a small minoritiy, which is getting smaller, and when they call it ‘pinkwashing’ it does not allow us to celebrate our advancements,” he said.American philanthropist Lynn Schusterman, an early supporter of the Open House, Jerusalem’s center for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community, was the keynote speaker.“I believe in an open and inclusive world where we can be proud of who we are,” she told The Jerusalem Post.Schusterman said she began supporting the Open House 12 years ago after a rash of suicides from gay teenagers in the capital.Dozens of youth and political groups joined the march carrying the banners of their movements. Sixty members of Telem, the Reform Youth Movement, came from all over the country to show their political support for same-sex marriage, said 18- year-old Hadar Katz.Members of the right-wing Likud’s gay group joined the parade for the first time after their founding nine months ago. Evan Cohen of Ramat Gan said that the Likud party embraced them, but the leftwing political parties did not. Even 20 anarchists joined the parade, dressed in black and pink, and chanted against the opposition.The colorful, musical parade that wound its way down King George Street with rainbow balloons flying from decorated wheelchairs and even a lone bagpipe with a rainbow beanie was a stark visual contrast to the blackand- white counter-protest in the haredi neighborhood of Mea She’arim.Ahead of the parade, rightwing activists lead by Baruch Marzel said they planned to bring eight live donkeys to the parade to protest the “bestiality” of the march.Elinor Sidi, the director of Jerusalem’s Open House, said Marzel attempts to bring donkeys to the parade every year. “This is animal abuse, and we really hope the Agriculture Ministry will get involved to stop this,” she said.Hundreds gathered in Mea She’arim to protest the gay pride parade, though there were no arrests.“Israel is the holy land, not the homo land,” said Ephraim Holtzberg, one of the organizers of the counter- protest, who stressed that people come from all over the world to enjoy Jerusalem’s holiness. “This is a provocation... God made the world this way, they are trying to rewrite Genesis.”He said the haredi community would never forgive former mayor Ehud Olmert for allowing the gay pride parades to begin 10 years ago.On Thursday morning, police discovered the white “Welcome to Jerusalem” sign at the entrance to the capital had been covered with rainbow paint, most likely in support of the parade. Police opened an investigation into the incident, and the sign was immediately cleaned.