Israel Gay Pride Parade Canceled

Gay leaders on Thursday canceled a parade in Jerusalem amid security concerns and pressure from fundamentalist religious leaders who called such a public display in the holy city offensive.

The Gay Pride parade scheduled for Friday drew opposition from Jews, Christians and Muslims, while hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews vented their disapproval by clashing with police and burning trash bins in the streets several nights over the past week.

Police had planned to post 9,000 officers to protect marchers, but authorities asked organizers to scale back the gathering amid reprisal threats after errant Israeli artillery shells killed 18 Palestinian civilians in Gaza on Wednesday.

Organizers agreed Thursday to turn the public parade into a rally, held inside a closed stadium.

The parade dispute has become a flashpoint in the battle for gay rights in Israel, drawing conflicting stances from secular society members and influential religious conservatives.

“Over time we achieved a lot more than was expected, and it puts us in a very good place in the cultured world,” said Uzi Even, a nuclear scientist who was the first openly gay member of Israel’s parliament. “Now, we are being dragged back into the dark world of religion.”

Rabbi Yosef Elnikaveh, a prominent religious leader, has said allowing the parade to proceed was surrendering to “mental illness.”

Top Muslim leaders said homosexuality is a crime and demanded police punish those involved in the parade.

Christian evangelical groups in Jerusalem have called the parade “provocative” and demanded the public venue be changed.

Despite the reaction in Jerusalem, many cities have thriving gay scenes. And the Israeli military, an influential and respected institution, is banned from discriminating against gays. Homosexuals are drafted into the army for mandatory service and are given the opportunity to progress up the ranks.

Efforts by the gay community to win approval for same-sex marriage, a key issue in the U.S. and Europe, face a major obstacle in Israel’s rabbinical authorities, who hold a monopoly over Jewish marriage and divorce. Secular groups have been fighting to get a law passed in parliament permitting civil marriages.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday November 10, 2006.
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