J'lem gay parade set for next Thursday

Haredi community decides to refrain from protesting against event in an effort to minimize its publicity.

gay parade 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
gay parade 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The capital's controversial annual Gay Pride Parade, which has repeatedly encountered vehement and sometimes violent opposition from the haredi and religious public as well as Christian and Muslim religious leaders, is scheduled to take place next Thursday with its most vocal opponents, the haredi community, choosing to avoid public protests in an effort to minimize publicity of the event, both organizers and opponents said Tuesday. "We prefer to concentrate on sanctifying God's name, not attacking those who desecrate it," said an official from the Eda Haredit organization. Yonatan Gher, executive director of Open House - Jerusalem's gay and lesbian center, which is organizing the event - said that in contrast to previous years, he was encountering "very good cooperation" from both the city and police due to the "different atmosphere" among opponents of the march. The expected route, which is set to be finalized in the coming days, will cover about four city blocks - slightly longer than last year's march. It will kick off from the city's Independence Park and continue to King David Street and on to Liberty Bell Park, where a rally will cap proceedings. The parade will take place under massive police protection. It cost state coffers NIS 13 million in security alone last year, police said. Meanwhile, the haredi decision to avoid protests was criticized Tuesday by prominent New York anti-gay activist Rabbi Yehuda Levin of the Orthodox Rabbinical Alliance of America and the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the US and Canada. "The local haredi community does not have a great deal of appreciation or knowledge of the international homosexual agenda or homosexual network," he said. "They optimistically and mistakenly believe that if they ignore this, it will not touch their community." Levin, who organized a Monday night synagogue protest against the parade attended by Rabbi Moshe Sternbach, one of the senior rabbinical leaders of the Eda Haredit, has condemned haredi Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski and the city council for not attempting to prevent the parade. "This is an abdication of their basic responsibility to Jerusalem residents who have indicated in polls that they do not want such a parade in Jerusalem," Levin said. Lupolianski, who has tried in previous years to thwart the parade to no avail, refused to comment on Tuesday. Matthew Wagner contributed to this report