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Religious groups join in opposition to Jerusalem gay pride parade


Troy Espera | July 14, 2006

TEL AVIV — Jerusalem's conflicting religious groups have found rare common ground, joining in their staunch opposition to next month�s controversial international gay pride parade during WorldPride 2006 August 6-12.

"We consider this offensive and harmful to the religious integrity of the city," Sheik Taissir Tamimi, head of the Islamic court in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, told the Associated Press this week.

"This group of homosexuals, we consider them impure," he said, calling on Palestinians to take to the streets to prevent marchers from entering east Jerusalem, where the holy sites are located. They "must not be allowed to enter Jerusalem."

Event organizer Hagai Elad, executive director of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, told AP that the march is the centerpiece of the seven-day WorldPride festival, intended to bring people of different faiths and cultures to a strife-torn city in an example of peaceful coexistence.

Rabbi Shlomo Amar, one of Israel's two chief rabbis, wrote a letter to Pope Benedict XVI, urging him to issue a "strong, emotional, unequivocal statement against this terrible phenomenon."

"The evil are coming upon (Jerusalem) to desecrate its honor and to humiliate its glory with acts that the Torah despises and that are despised by all the religions," Amar wrote. "In addition, they also want to negatively influence babies, children and teenagers, to ruin them and bring them down the path of destruction."

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, himself an ultra-Orthodox Jew, has called for the parade's cancellation, reports Ynetnews.com. But according to a statement issued by his office earlier this week, he had no authority to take such action. The police, who are responsible for authorizing parades, told AP they had not decided whether to grant a permit.

Threats of violence against participants have also surfaced, according to AP. An anonymous flyer distributed in some ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods Tuesday offered about $4,400 to anyone who killed a marcher.

The proposed route would take the marchers from Independence Park in west Jerusalem toward the Israeli parliament, keeping them miles away from the Old City, which holds the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, three of the city's holiest sites.

Uzi Even, an openly gay former lawmaker from the dovish Meretz Party, told AP that the organizers needed to be careful to stay away from those sites, but the parade should proceed because it carries important symbolic value.

"That is why the religious people are so much against it," he said. It shows "that we are here, that we cannot be silenced, that we don't want to hide in the closet anymore, that we demand our rights, even from the religious parties." – Issued by Gay Link Content


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