I read an article on-line about a gay pride event that was held in Jerusalem today. The event, which was supposed to have been a parade, was instead held behind fences in a stadium on the grounds of Hebrew University. Gay pride organizers were worried about violence, in view of three stabbings that occurred at last year's march. Police deployed 3,000 officers to hold back anti-gay protesters, some of them armed with knives and batons. One protester was arrested after yelling out anti-gay slurs inside the stadium.
Nearly 4,000 people came to the event. Many of them were straight allies, who came to show support; others came to enjoy the party atmosphere. "I'm not gay, but I came to show solidarity, to support freedom of expression and to party," said one 17-year-old girl who did not want to be identified because she had skipped school to attend. T-shirts with the slogan "Straight and proud" were seen worn by several men and women.
There have been on-going disputes about the gay event. Some Jewish Orthodox leaders call homosexuality a "mental illness" or an "abomination." However, there were groups from the Reform and Conservative movement at the stadium holding signs asking for peaceful co-existence. Some of the Orthodox leaders wanted the venue moved to Tel Aviv instead of holding the parade in Jerusalem, but Orthodox Jewish lesbian Avigail Sperber said to move it would be to miss the point. She noted that the religious community is finally talking about the topic and they realize that gay and lesbian people exist within their communities
Elena Canetti of the Jerusalem Open House, the gay rights group behind the event, answered accusations that holding it was an unnecessary provocation.
"As a lesbian, as a woman, as a Jew and simply as a human being, I have the right to live my life as a lesbian in Jerusalem, openly in my city, close to my family, my friends, my neighbors and my workmates," she said. "If we flee to another city, Tel Aviv, Amsterdam or San Francisco, we shall find ourselves centimeter by centimeter giving way to bullies and violence."
When I was in Jerusalem a few years ago, I saw a rainbow flag flying from a window on one of the buildings. So I knew there had to be some type of movement there but didn't know anything about it. I'm glad to see that they're sticking to their principles and not allowing extremists to bully them. I'm also very encouraged that the GLBT community has "straight allies"! Now, if I could only find one of these nice young men for my son............ :)