WorldPride Parade Replaced by Protest Against Hatred

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

Jerusalem ( - After postponing a parade through the streets of Jerusalem, organizers of this week's international homosexual gathering said they would replace the march with a protest against hatred in a city park.

"Though the march has been postponed until the end of current hostilities, it is essential for us to express publicly our outrage against the hate campaign targeting our community," the group's website said. "We will stand together quietly and peacefully in the center of Jerusalem."

Overshadowed by the Israeli-Hizballah war in Lebanon, the WorldPride event is nevertheless taking place as planned. The entire event was postponed last year because of turmoil surrounding Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Haggai El-Ad of Jerusalem Open House, the local organizer of the event, said the demonstration is intended to be a "peaceful answer to many months of violent incitement" against WorldPride.

Many conservative Jewish, Christian and Muslim groups and leaders opposed the idea of holding what amounts to a homosexuality convention in Jerusalem -- a city sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims -- and some warned of violent clashes if the parade took place.

This is only the second time that such an international event has been held. The first was in Rome in 2000, and it was timed to coincide with a Christian celebration of the second millennium since Jesus' birth.

Religious and political leaders criticized the idea of holding the event in Jerusalem, calling it a provocation.

El-Ad said "thousands" of homosexuals from "dozens" of countries are attending this week's events, which include a "solidarity rally" with "gay Palestinians" at the security barrier erected by Israel.

A press release from organizers said the rally at the barrier will address the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict. "The reality that surrounds Jerusalem is one of violent conflict and decades-long occupation...The purpose of this rally is to proclaim our opposition to the wall, and to draw attention to those who are suffering without blame."

But El-Ad said the rally at the barrier is more of a "community event" than a political event because it's geared toward homosexuals from the Palestinian West Bank cities of Bethlehem and Ramallah who are unable to participate in the Jerusalem events.

Jerusalem Open House said in a statement that its greatest challenge is "a tradition of conformist heterosexism that continues to be enforced by almost all social institutions in Israel, including the family, the school, the state, and the religious establishment."

JOH said the challenge is "especially formidable in Jerusalem, a city of traditional values and deeply rooted religious commitments."

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