Religious leaders: Ban Jerusalem Gay Parade

From left: Muslim cleric Abdel Salem Menasra, Archbishop Aristarchos, of the Greek Orthodox Holy Land Patriarchate, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Israeli chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Chief Ashkenaki Rabbi Yehuda Metzger in Jerusalem Wednesday

In a rare alliance, senior religious leaders of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the Holy Land joined forces Wednesday to thwart a major international gay parade scheduled to take place in Jerusalem this summer, urging the government to ban the event which they said could provoke a violent reaction from the faithful.

“We are shocked to have received notice that a worldwide assembly of ten days including an immodest parade devoid of minimal propriety is scheduled to be held in Jerusalem this summer, which will offend the very foundations of our religious values and the character of the Holy City. Such an event would constitute a severe affront to the hearts and souls of adherents of all religions - Jews Christians and Moslems alike,” a declaration signed by a dozen top religious leaders including Israel’s Chief Rabbis, the Latin Patriarch, the Vatican Ambassador to the Holy Land, representatives from the Armenian and Greek Orthodox Patriarchies and three Muslim Sheiks.

“We call upon and demand… the Israeli Government and all responsible officials and Israeli police to realize the full implications of their plans and to prohibit any march of this kind, and especially in the Holy City of Jerusalem,” it read.

United and uncompromising in their beliefs, speaker after speaker in the multi-faith tri-lingual press conference organized by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate denounced the planned event as an affront and provocation to the sensitivities of Jerusalem’s Jewish Arab and Christian residents, as well as to millions of believers around the world.

“We have enough tension in our city regarding the disengagement plan and we do not need to add fire to the oil,” said Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.

“The particular holiness of Jerusalem has requirements both for those who are believers and those who are not,” concurred the Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah.

“We respect the ideas of everybody, but everybody must respect the sentiments of the inhabitants of Jerusalem,” said the Representative of the Holy See Archbishop Sambi.

“Such a parade is not only an offense but a provocation to Jews Christians and Muslim all over the world,” he said, adding “no one can be sure such a move will not provoke a reaction from the faithful.”

New York Rabbi Yehuda Levin, representing 1,000 Orthodox Rabbis from the ‘Rabbinical Alliance of America,’ who has been actively working with Evangelical Christian leaders in the US against the event lambasted the “parade of abomination” which he said represented nothing less than “a spiritual rape” of the Holy Land.

“Why is it that the Government of Israel does not allow 10,000 Jews to march on the Temple Mount because it is said to be a provocation, but does not stop a ten day immoral celebration of sodomy and pornography which is a provocation to the overwhelming majority of the people of this city, and this land?” he asked.

Levin also expressed dissatisfaction with the Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski’s ‘behind the scenes’ attitude vis a ve the event.

“We are embarrassed, ashamed and dissatisfied that you have not been out there up front speaking out for the holiness of the city and against this abomination” he said.

The highly unusual cooperation between Judaism’s, Christianity’s and Islam’s top religious leaders in Jerusalem comes on the heels of a joint Christian-Jewish campaign launched in the city earlier this month to prevent the August parade from taking place in the Holy Land.

The press conference of top religious leaders - where black hatted Rabbis intermingled with Black-hooded Priests, Hebrew-speaking priests pressed hands with Hebrew-speaking Sheikhs, and Muslim clerics warned of destructions along the lines Sodom and Gomorra - was condemned by Israel’s Masorti (Conservative) Movement, which has come out strongly in favor of the international gay pride event.

Such an unholy coalition of people who otherwise hate each other only represents their own fear and hatred of the gay and lesbian community,” said movement Rabbi David Lazar.

As the debate over the international gay pride parade rages, while more conservative religious leaders opposed to the event look for both public and divine intervention, police said they were “considering” asking organizers to postpone the event since their forces will be overburdened with the concomitant withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

The prerogative for issuing permits for marches and other public events in the country rests with the police.

For their part, local organizers of the event have said that they had not received any request from police to postpone the 10 day event to date, adding that only the parade itself required security.

“Every year there is another excuse why this is not the right time,” said Hagai El-Ad the executive director of Jerusalem’s Gay and Lesbian Center whose organization is planning to host the international event.

Even before the conflict with the Gaza pullout emerged, the idea of holding such an international parade in Jerusalem was a source of bitter controversy.

In a largely conservative city, with a strong religious and traditional makeup, the idea of holding such an international parade in Jerusalem is seen by many - even outside of religious circles - as out of touch with both the spiritual character of the city as well as the sensitivities of its observant residents.

A poll released at the Jerusalem press conference indicated that three-quarters of Jerusalem’s Jewish residents were opposed to holding the event, and only a quarter supported it.

The Dahaf institute poll taken this month among 400 people found that among Jerusalem Arabs a whopping 96 percent opposed the event.

In reaction to the poll, organizers of the parade such that “freedom of speech should not be held hostage to one poll or another.”

Jerusalem held its first annual local gay parade only three years ago. The event, which draws several thousand participants, has been the source of repeated debate each year, with many religious city councilors and a not insignificant number of city residents considering such an event inappropriate for a “holy” city.

The last international gay parade, which took place in Rome in 2000 despite the wrath of the Vatican, attracted about half a million participants, while local organizers had been expecting tens of thousands of revelers for the Jerusalem event this summer.

Mar. 30, 2005 22:00 | Updated Mar. 30, 2005 22:48
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by  Etgar Lefkovits
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