Thousands of Police to Secure Jerusalem 'Gay Pride' Parade

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Amid threats of violence by extremist Jews and Muslims, thousands of Israeli police will be deployed to monitor the annual homosexual parade through the streets of Jerusalem, it was announced on Tuesday.

The parade was supposed to be part of an international WorldPride gathering held in Jerusalem this summer, but it was cancelled because of the war in Lebanon. That was the second cancellation. The first was in 2005, when Israel was in the chaotic process of evacuating the Gaza Strip.

Earlier this year, in a rare show of unity, Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders as well as some Israeli Knesset members banded together to protest the parade. They warned that there could be serious trouble if it took place.

Jews, Christians and Muslims all view Jerusalem as a holy city. The teachings of all three groups forbid homosexuality. They believe that attempts to hold such events in Jerusalem are intended to provoke religious sensibilities.

Despite the objections, local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT) has pressed ahead with plans to hold their annual parade.

Noa Sattath, from the Jerusalem Open House, the local LGBT group sponsoring the march, said that they are "very determined" to hold the march next week. The threats, she said, have so far been expressed only through the media and not directly at the JOH.

They are "taking precautions" against any trouble, Sattath said.

Thousands of police are taking part in a "huge operation" to make sure the march would go ahead according to plan, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

If the march takes place it will be the fifth year it has been held in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem City Councilwoman Mina Fenton is spearheading the campaign against the march and says it was a mistake not to speak strongly against it from the beginning.

The first few years there were virtually no protests against the march because local residents thought "common sense" would win out and the event would be cancelled. The religious Jewish community also did not want to get involved in protests that might cause their children to ask questions that they didn't want to answer, Fenton said in a telephone interview.

But Fenton accused the LGBT community of engaging in violence by offending the sensibilities of the religious communities. She described one woman who walked down the street bare-breasted, with a Jewish prayer shawl wrapped around her bottom.

"Tension is very high," Fenton said. "We are praying that God will help us and there won't be a confrontation."

Fenton said there is the added danger that not only could there be trouble during the parade but holding it could bring a Muslim and Christian backlash.

At a stormy Knesset committee meeting on Monday, one Sheikh from Nazareth warned that holding the event could bring destruction on Jerusalem, Fenton said.

Last year, a religious Jewish man stabbed three participants in the event. He was arrested and is currently serving time in prison for the attacks.

Fenton said tens of thousands of people, religious and non-religious and from various walks of life in Jerusalem, have signed a petition demanding that such events not be held in the city.

Further offending some opponents, the parade is scheduled to take place on November 10, the anniversary of Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass), a pogrom against Jewish people, their homes, businesses and synagogues that took place in cities, towns and villages across Germany.

Sattath said that the day was chosen because it was the first available Friday after the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. She noted that Kristallnacht is marked in Israel according to the Jewish calendar, which is marked on a different day.

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