Violence Fails to Disrupt Jerusalem 'Gay Pride' Parade

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - A homosexual "pride" parade in Jerusalem went on Thursday night, despite one protester's violent acts.

Earlier, city officials tried to ban the parade on the grounds that it would offend city residents.

Thousands of marchers (estimates vary) paraded down the streets of Jerusalem under the rainbow banner of the homosexual community. Hundreds of ultra-religious protestors lined the parade route.

More than 800 police officers and a helicopter were on hand to secure the event. But despite those precautions, three marchers were injured when a 30-year-old ultra-orthodox Jew broke through police lines and stabbed them.

All three were treated for non-life-threatening injuries, and the violence did not stop the parade. Police arrested the suspect.

Hagai El-Ad, the executive director of Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (the city's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender center), blamed Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski for the trouble at the parade.

"This violent attack is a direct result of Mayor Lupoliansky's ongoing campaign of incitement," El-Ad said. "[Thursday's] Pride events focused on a message of love and tolerance - and these values cannot be obstructed by violence."

Lupoliansky and city managers earlier this week tried to ban the parade on the grounds that it would offend the sensitivities of people who live in and visit Jerusalem.

But the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH) sued on the grounds that preventing the parade was a breach of their civil rights -- and won.

The Jerusalem district court not only ruled that the mayor and municipality had no right to stop the parade because the mayor did not agree with it, but ordered the municipality and Lupolianski personally to pay 30,000 shekels each (about $6,670 each) to fund the parade.

The parade highlighted the growing divide in Jerusalem society between religious and secular Jews, drawing some secular Jews to the side of the LGBT community.

Two religious Knesset members protested the march along the parade route while another Knesset member took part in the parade. Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz, from the left-wing Labor party, sent a message to participants.

"Jerusalem Pride is part of the struggle for human rights and freedom for all sectors of society," said Pines-Paz. "The heads of the Jerusalem Municipality should self-reflect on their contribution to the incitement leading up to today's violence."

One middle-aged city resident, Yael, said she came to the event to offer her support.

"I think it is very good that it [the parade] is taking place in Jerusalem," said Yael. "I'm against religious compulsion and I'm for this. Live and let live. [I came] to give them the feeling that in Jerusalem there are people that support them," she said.

"I just came to support a pluralistic city," said Jerusalem resident Ishai, 27, who said he is not a homosexual but has homosexual friends. "I think minority rights should be respected. This is a minority right."

But others were not happy about the parade.

One couple, walking their dog near their home, objected to the noise and litter generated by the parade and post-parade party in Liberty Bell Park, adjacent to their home.

"I think this is a shame and a disgrace," the man said. "It bothers me. [Last year] it was terribly dirty. I walk here [in the park] every morning. I couldn't enter. It was like this with garbage," he said, gesturing to show that it had been waist-high. "Garbage throws garbage."

Ya'akov, a religious Jew, said he didn't understand why Jerusalem residents should be inconvenienced by street closings for a parade of people who "want to live in a certain way."

One of Jerusalem's main streets was closed to traffic for more than an hour and an intersection at the corner of Liberty Bell Park, where four busy streets converge, was closed for a number of hours.

The Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities in Jerusalem have become more outspoken about homosexual events in the city since it was announced that a 10-day international 'WorldPride" event would take place in Jerusalem this summer.

However, the JOH postponed the international gathering two months ago because it would have coincided with the Israeli government's plan to evacuate thousands of settlers in the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank.

See Earlier Stories:
Jerusalem Court Rules in Favor of Homosexual Parade (27 June 2005)
Homosexuals Challenge Jerusalem for Refusing 'Gay Pride' Parade (23 June 2005)