Gay Israel News & Reports 2005

1 Israeli court rules on lesbian couple adoption1/05

2 Gay parade a no-go? 2/05

3 New Israel Holocaust Memorial Honors Gay Victims 3/05

4 Gay Jerusalem determined to hold parade 3/05

5 Chief Rabbi gives his support to Jerusalem World Pride 4/05

6 Jerusalem Gay Bar Torched 4/05

7 Jerusalem gay pride parade postponed to next year 5/05

8 Gay Israeli artists seek Arabs to fall in love with 5/05

9 Thousands attend Tel Aviv Gay Pride amid heavy security measures 6/05

10 Jerusalem city council bans gay pride parade 6/05

11 Jerusalem court approves gay parade 6/05

12 Pride parades take place in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Eilat 6/05

13 March for pride and Jerusalem –a troubled success 7/05

14 Tel Aviv to build first-ever gay center 12/05


January 10, 2005

Israeli court rules on lesbian couple adoption

Jerusalem – In a precedent-setting ruling, the Israeli Supreme Court Monday ruled 7-2 that a lesbian couple is able to legally adopt each other’s children. Only married couples are allowed to adopt children in Israel, except in rare circumstances, according to a literal wording of the law, however the court recently handed down a ruling allowing a common law wife to adopt her partner’s children.

Based on this ruling, the court expanded the principle to include same-sex couples, reported the Jerusalem Post." Our organization is also helping a gay couple, who wish to be recognized as the adoptive parents of a child that was legally adopted in the U.S., and are now suffering from bureaucratic caprice and prejudice regarding the rights of a same-sex family," said attorney Irit Rosenblum, director of the "New Family" organization. "We hope the court’s ruling will lift the remaining obstacles."

Jerusalem Post

February 24, 2005

Gay parade a no-go?

by Etgar Lefkovits
Jerusalem police are considering canceling a major international gay pride parade scheduled to take place this summer because they will be overburdened by the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and will not be able to provide adequate security for such a large event at the same time, police said Wednesday. The 10-day, "Jerusalem World Pride 2005," is slated to take place in the city in mid-August, just four weeks after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is supposed to get underway. The pullout from 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and four in the northern West Bank, which is scheduled to begin on July 20, is expected to take anywhere from five to nine weeks.

In all, 9,000 Jewish residents are slated to be evacuated from their homes as part of the plan, with many likely to leave only by force. Nearly the entire 24,000 strong police field force will be assigned to the pullout, with the remainder of the police’s manpower is slated to be stationed to ward off civil disturbances against the withdrawal throughout the country. About 18,000 officers will be assigned to the withdrawal, including 2,500 unarmed police officers who will evacuate settlers who refuse to leave voluntarily, and 4,000 officers will be posted at passages into Gaza, police said. " We are examining this issue [of canceling the parade] based on the security needs on the ground," Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said Wednesday.

He declined to say when a final decision would be made on the matter. The issuance of permits for marches and other public events in the country is under the jurisdiction of the police. Local organizers of the event expressed confidence Wednesday that the international parade would go ahead as scheduled, despite the evident lack of police manpower to secure the event. " As Israelis and Palestinians are moving towards more peaceful times, we are confident that the world pride events will take place as planned this August in Jerusalem, and are working closely with the police towards this goal," said Hagai El-Ad, the executive director of Jerusalem’s Gay and Lesbian Center, whose organization is planning to host the international event. He declined to comment over a possible postponement of the event. Even before the conflict with the Gaza pullout emerged, the idea of holding an international gay parade in Jerusalem was a source of bitter controversy.

In a largely conservative city, with a strong religious demographic makeup, the idea of holding such a parade in Jerusalem is seen by many – even outside of observant circles and Jerusalem’s haredi-run city hall – as out of touch with both the spiritual character of the "holy city" as well as the sensitivities of its religious residents. Jerusalem held its first annual local gay parade three years ago. The event, which draws several thousand participants, has been the source of repeated debate each year. When the first gay pride parade was held in the capital in 2002, former Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert withheld funding for the event, after failing to convince organizers and participants to join Tel Aviv’s pride parade, where an annual procession enjoys a much larger turnout.

The Jerusalem Municipality was later ordered by the Supreme Court to pay the organizers NIS 40,000 for the annual event, in keeping with the amount the municipality contributed toward other city marches. The last international gay parade, which took place in Rome in 2000, attracted about half a million participants. Local organizers expect tens of thousands of revelers to attend the Jerusalem event this summer. Newscenter Staff

March 16, 2005

New Israel Holocaust Memorial Honors Gay Victims

Jerusalem – Israel’s new museum dedicated to victims of the Holocaust features a special exhibit dedicated to gay and lesbian victims of the Nazis. The Yad Vashem Museum was officially opened Tuesday in Jerusalem. The inclusion of gays was not part of the original plan. Several months ago while the museum was still under construction Jerusalem City Council member Sa’ar Netanel toured the facility honoring Jews killed by the Nazis. He said he was surprised there was no mention of gay Holocaust victims and mentioned it to the museum’s director. " The Jewish people has a moral obligation to remember all the victims of World War II," Netanel told the Haaretz newspaper. "The state of Israel should be the first country in the world to mention all the victims," he said.

Avner Shalev, chairman of the Yad Vashem wrote Netanel in response, "Jews indeed were not the only victims of the Nazi regime, but they were the only group that it aspired to completely wipe out. It is clear that in dealing with the Holocaust we also touch on its contexts and related areas, among them the subject of other victims of the regime. Accordingly, the new museum will present the subject of other victims, including homosexual victims, of the Nazi regime, in a relevant place." There are monuments to the gay victims of the Holocaust in San Francisco and San Sabba, Italy. Under Paragraph 175 of the German penal code, which banned sexual intimacy between members of the same gender, an untold number of gays were rounded up by the Nazis and send to concentration camps where they were subjected to medical experiments including lobotomies, and forced to work in labor camps.

The number of gays sent to the camps ranges from 5,000 to 15,000
, many of them sent to the gas chambers. The American Holocaust Museum in Washington also has an exhibit dedicated to gays and lesbians. A portion of the exhibition toured the country last year. But still, many Americans do not know that the Nazis also targeted gay, gypsies and other groups. In 2003 Minnesota state Rep. Arlon Lindner during debate on two bills he had brought forward to repeal gay rights laws in the state, said gays were lying when they cited thousands of homosexuals who were exterminated or sent to concentration camps by the Nazis. " It never happened," Lindner told the House.

" I was a child during World War II, and I’ve read a lot about World War II," he said. "It’s just been recently that anyone’s come out with this idea that homosexuals were persecuted to this extent. There’s been a lot of rewriting of history." The remarks shocked the legislature, but attempts to censure him failed.

Associated Press

March 31, 2005

Gay Jerusalem determined to hold parade

Jerusalem – A gay leader in Jerusalem said Thursday that the fervent opposition of Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders had made organizers of an international gay festival more determined than ever to go ahead with plans to hold the 10-day event in Jerusalem this summer. The World Pride festival, last held in Rome in 2000 where it attracted thousands, is to include street parties, workshops and a gay film festival and is hotly opposed by Muslim, Orthodox Jewish and Christian groups. Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said Thursday that police had received a number of requests not to issue a permit for the festival but had not yet made a decision.

A rare alliance of senior Jewish, Christian and Muslim clerics held a news conference Wednesday demanding the festival not be held in Jerusalem, describing gays as lower than animals and calling their lifestyle unnatural and unhealthy. Jerusalem Open House director Hagai El-Ad, one of the festival organizers, told The Associated Press that the offensive tone of the remarks made him even more determined to press ahead with plans for the Aug. 18-28 event.

"If anyone had any hesitation about how important this event is, after the unfortunate remarks made at Wednesday’s press conference, I think no such questions remain," he said. "It’s important that one of the first signs of interfaith dialogue we have encountered here in Jerusalem takes place around such a negative message."

14 April 2005

Chief Rabbi in Israel of the Raelian Branch ofJudaism gives his support to Jerusalem World Pride

Following the opposition of the religious authorities of Jerusalem to the hosting of Gay World Pride 2005 which will take place in Jerusalem in August 2005, Leon Mellul, the Chief rabbi of Israel of the raelian branch of Judaism, ( spontaneously decided to grant his full and complete support to this event and its organizers. Questioned on the reasons for his decision, Chief Rabbi Mellul, who is recognized as someone who doesn’t mince words declared: "They are thugs or rather a religious mafia that wants to impose its power in order to prohibit the gay parade which will take place on next August 28th in Jerusalem".

And Chief Rabbi Mellul to add: "the attitude of the religious authorities towards the religious minorities is from my point of view odious and revolting. It only confirms once again the lack of love of these hypocrites who play ‘men of god’ or rather who live at the expense of their religion for their personal needs, to satisfy their power and impose their mediaeval laws." As the founder and spiritual leader of the International Raelian Movement, Rael, (Mashiach Rael for Israel only) says it so well: "Only the love of differences and femininity can save our planet".

"For the international raelian movement, homosexuals have a major role to play in our society in this direction. They have a lot to teach us about sensitivity, refinement and especially about the love of differences which is the theme of their parade and which the religious leaders have been unable to see, blinded by the gangue of their traditions and their prejudice. " RAEL, the spiritual leader of the International Raelian Movement (Mashiach Rael for Israel only), opens wide his arms to all human beings without distinction of language, sex, race, religion or sexual orientation. "The love of a human being is unconditional!" he says. To reproach a homosexual for being homosexual is as stupid as reproaching a black for being black or a white for being white or a cat for being a cat.

"Homosexuality is quite simply genetic and the great religions know it and hide it! Sexual minorities have always been mistreated by the traditional religions that are the source of and that continue to spread violence towards homosexuals by saying words and by posing gestures that encourage homophobia everywhere on the planet." Newscenter

April 25, 2005

Jerusalem Gay Bar Torched

Jerusalem – Police are investigating a fire at Jerusalem’s only LGBT bar as extreme Orthodox rabbis and Christian evangelical groups ratchet up the rhetoric in opposition to World Pride celebrations scheduled for the city this summer. Sa’ar Netanel, a member of Jerusalem’s city council and the owner of the bar, Shushan, said that Sunday night a man entered the doorway of the club and threw a burning rag inside.

Flames spread quickly but patrons escaped without injury. No one has claimed responsibility but relations have worsened between city’s gays and conservative rabbis, Muslim clerics, and Christian fundamentalists in recent weeks. In January conservative clerics from the three religions in a rare show of solidarity began efforts to thwart World Pride celebrations. (story). At a news conference last month, Shlomo Amar, Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi said that Jerusalem’s Open House, the LGBT center which is organizing the celebration is "creating a deep and terrible sorrow that is unbearable."

" We can’t permit anybody to come and make the Holy City dirty. This is very ugly and very nasty to have these people come to Jerusalem," Abdel Aziz Bukhari, a Sufi sheik, said. Other Muslim officials have warned that if the gay pride organizers do not heed warnings and attempt to march in Jerusalem, “their lives will be in danger”. Netanel on Monday said he is not rushing to judgment. " I certainly don’t blame anyone, and certainly no community," he told the English language Ynet. " The police will investigate and we’ll see. This is the first time the club is attacked, but I already received threats on my life." Netanel said he hoped to reopen the club later this week

World Pride, to be held between August 18 and 28 is expected to draw more than 100,000 gays and lesbians from around the world to the Holy City. The last World Pride was held in 2000 in Rome.

From: The Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance

May. 15, 2005

Jerusalem WorldPride postponed to next year

Worldpride has be re-scheduled to Agust 6-12, 2006.

This change of date follows an announcment by Israel’s prime-minister that the Gaza pullout will start mid-August. As a result, The JOH board has decided to re-scheduled WorldPride to August 6-12 2006. As Tolerance, pluralism and equality are WorldPride’s guiding principles, we feel that holding WorldPride during the Gaza pullout would do injustice to those values. We have taken this decision out of consideration to the most difficult political climate expected in Israel this August, and because as a community we are deeply engaged in the complex reality surrounding us.

We are continuting our work to ensure that WorldPride is a successful event, that will echo the message of love without borders globally. If you have any questions, please let us know and we’ll be happy to help. See you in Jerusalem next year.

World Pride

Michal Hamo
Board member
The Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance

Source: Reuters

20 May 2005

Gay Israeli artists seek Arabs to fall in love with

by Claudia Parsons, New York
Two gay Israeli men have installed a huge double bed in a New York art gallery and are inviting Arab men to become their "lover" as part of an exhibition called "Sleeping with the Enemy." But the artists who like to be known simply as Gil and Moti talk about the project in romantic terms, saying it’s about "falling in love" rather than sex. Gil said visitors should not come to the show expecting to see pornography.

"The bed is there for us to live in. Artistically there are three pillows to symbolize unity of three people which goes along with the whole concept of make love not war," he said. "We try to actually open up a dialogue and debate which is about more important issues than just sexual matters and if there’s sex, OK, but it’s not something we’re interested in discussing," Gil said.

The sales pitch for the show in which the two live and work in the gallery surrounded by their art reads: "Israeli artists Gil and Moti are gay, married and in love. For 5 weeks, they court an Arab lover." Since late 2002 they have made contact online with as many as 300 Arab men from across the Middle East. They typically send a message through a dating site asking if they can paint a picture from the man’s photo and explaining who they are. They then scan and e-mail the painting as a means of "seduction" and hopefully start a dialogue and meet, Gil said.

The gallery called Jack the Pelican, in Brooklyn, is displaying over 100 of the watercolors, priced at $700-$900, along with some transcripts of e-mail exchanges, photos and oil paintings and the bed. "We felt frustrated with the political situation in the Middle East," said Gil. "As Israelis, we grew up with Arabs but we were encouraged by the education system to hate and abuse them so we thought we must do something about it. So we decided to fall in love with one of them."

Still Searching For The Right Man
Moti is coy when asked whether the bed might actually be put to use if they meet an Arab man they like. "We want people to think about sex when they enter the show because we have a bed in the front and it’s clear that we are living here, but we’re not interested in showing that," he said, appearing a little bashful for a man standing in front of paintings of naked men in graphic sexual positions. Gil said they had not invited anybody to join them yet but one local Arab man had invited them to his home.

The exhibit includes video and pictures of a Lebanese man called Oliver who lived with them for nearly a year in the Netherlands. One photograph shows the three men standing naked and covered in mud in a wood, holding hands. "We actually fell in love, with the three of us," Gil said. "He saw us as one person because we’re together 24 hours a day, I think it’s no longer clear how individual we are."

"He said he loved not just us but the concept. But at some point it got complicated," Gil said, explaining that Oliver found the pressure of living with performance artists who consider their life a constant show too difficult, so he left. Aged 37 and 33, Gil and Moti, who met 11 years ago at art school in Israel, dress alike, on this occasion in yellow tee-shirts embroidered by Gil’s mother with flowers and their names in Arabic, and both wear their hair gelled into spikes.

June 12, 2005

Thousands attend Tel Aviv Gay Pride amid heavy security measures

by Yuval Azoulay
" Any straight folk here?" drag queen Tziona Patriot asked the tens of thousands of spectators on Friday at the central stage in Ganei Yehoshua park, where the closing Gay Pride event in Tel Aviv was taking place. A voice from the crowd shouted, "Yes!" Tziona, who expected the wisecrack, responded: "So, what is it like to be different? But it’s OK. We accept you, and we have a lot to give…"

This year’s parade organizers expected 100,000 marchers on Ibn Gvirol Street, the number of marchers last year. In fact, only several tens of thousands marched this year. The colorful parade of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual community was held under heavy security arrangements, involving some 1,000 police, security guards, orderlies and rescue teams. The parade celebrated 30 years since the founding of the Society for Protection of Personal Rights for Lesbians, Gay Men and Bisexuals in Israel, and honored the activity of the pioneers who fought the way for acceptance of people with same-sex preference.

While thousands were celebrating Gay Pride, Shas Chairman Eli Yishai published an announcement calling the event "a disgrace." He said that, at such a violent time, these parades do nothing but "provoke" the public. "When there is a murder almost every day, a group of people come and steal hours of municipal police work hours, for an event that is mostly a disgrace for humanity." Shas officials said a few hours before the Sabbath that the party would instruct its representatives in Tel Aviv’s city council to see whether the parade involves desecration of the Sabbath by an official body, like the municipality.

The organizers were indifferent: "It’s only three o’clock in the afternoon. We’ll be gone by six-thirty. What does he want from us?" they said.
At the same time, three young talents, finalists in the "Homolulu is Born" song contest, waited to go on stage at Ganei Yehoshua. The one requirement was that contestants were to be out of the closet, which made sense, Tziona explained, "since the contest receives so much exposure."

The winner, 26-year-old Roni Kiezelgal, sang "Standing on a Cliff," by Israel’s High Five band. His parents were in the crowd watching. "It’s a dream. When my parents see their son is not the only one, and there are tens of thousands of others in Israel, they will accept me not only 80 percent, but 100 percent," Kiezelgal said.

BBC News

June 24, 2005

Jerusalem city council bans gay pride parade

Jerusalem authorities have said they are banning a gay pride parade planned for next week, saying the event would be "provocative" and set off unrest. The Jerusalem Open House group, which is organising the march scheduled for 30 June, said it would challenge the decision in court on Sunday. The organisation said police had already approved the parade route. The event has been held for the last three years and previously passed off peacefully albeit under heavy security.

"It wouldn’t be right to authorise the march and the related festivities in Jerusalem out of the concern that it would be provocative and hurt the feelings of the broader public living in and visiting the city," the municipality said in a public notice to the organisers. Open House dismissed the comments. "The actions of the mayor, and those carrying out his policies, are injurious to the values of freedom of expression," said director Hagai El-Ad. "The city of Jerusalem continues in its discriminatory policy against the Jerusalem Open House and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Jerusalem."

‘Sodom’ fears
Three months ago, Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders held a news conference calling for gay festivals in Jerusalem to be banned.
They said a gay parade through the city could spark violence. One Muslim cleric suggested gay events in Jerusalem would attract divine wrath similar to that which destroyed the biblical city of Sodom. Several weeks ago, Jerusalem Open House postponed an international gay event, Jerusalem WorldPride 2005, that had been scheduled for August and would have coincided with Israel’s planned Gaza pullout.

The Jerusalem Post –

June 26, 2005

Jerusalem court approves gay parade–
"not within the city’s jurisdiction to prohibit"

by Etgar Lefkovitz
Overturning a city veto, Jerusalem District Court ruled Sunday that the municipality must allow the city’s annual gay parade to take place on Thursday as scheduled. Judge Mussia Arad ordered Mayor Lupoliansky to personally pay NIS 30,000 to the city’s Gay and Lesbian center to cover its legal costs and to underwrite the event, and the Jerusalem municipality was ordered to pay and additional NIS 30,000.

Arad ruled that is was not within the city’s jurisdiction to prohibit the parade, arguing that the mayor could not act with prejudice against group of people because he disagreed with their worldview. Arad also ordered the city line the parade route with banners representing the group in advance of the event, as she said the city customarily did for other parades and cultural events.

Earlier Sunday, Jerusalem police chief Ilan Franco said that he would allow the parade to take place on Thursday as scheduled. The city police chief announced his decision to allow the event, along with four demonstrations against it, during a morning hearing at the Jerusalem district court. Interior Minister Ophir Paz-Pines had said that he would obligate the city to allow the event to go ahead as planned, with legal experts opining that the court would force the municipality to allow the parade to take place.

The legal action came after the municipality unexpectedly informed event organizers in writing Thursday that the city would not allow the yearly parade to go ahead on June 30 as planned, saying the march would offend many of the holy city’s residents, and set off unrest. The city’s eleventh-hour decision, made public just one week before the scheduled event, stunned event organizers who said Thursday that they would fight all the way up to the Supreme Court, if necessary, to overturn a decision which, they said, violated the homosexual community’s right of expression.

" The actions of the mayor, and those carrying out his policies, are injurious to the values of freedom of expression… and are a serious and intentional violation of good faith…and violate the principle of equality," said Hagai El-Ad, director of Jerusalem’s Gay and Lesbian Center. 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.

Over the last three years, however, the municipality never said they would ban the parade from taking place, even after Mayor Uri Lupolianski, an opponent of the event, became the city’s first haredi mayor two years ago. The prerogative for issuing permits for marches and other public events in the country rests with the police, although the municipality can ban marchers from public parks.

Indeed, the city’s surprise decision to block the parade, which was widely expected to be overturned by the Jerusalem court from the start, was seen as a largely symbolic move by the haredi-run municipality of Mayor Lupolianski, who has come under increasingly harsh criticism from his constituency for failing to take a more vocal position against the planned international gay pride parade which was slated to be held in Jerusalem this summer.

" We would like to see Mayor Lupolianski as well as religious city and state officials lead masses of people to protest the event, and if necessary be arrested in an attempt to block the parade from happening," said New York Rabbi Yehuda Levin of the Orthodox Rabbinical Alliance of America, who has been actively campaigning against such events in Israel. The city’s decision came just a month after organizers, facing a looming police veto, postponed the international gay pride parade slated to take place in Jerusalem until next year due to the concomitant pullout from Gaza.

The summer withdrawal, and the mass protests planned to go along with it, are expected to vastly overburden police around the country, leaving police with no manpower to safeguard such a highly controversial event. In a conservative city with a strong religious and traditional makeup, both Jewish and Arab, the idea of holding such an international parade 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 public opinion poll released earlier this year found that three-quarters of Jerusalem’s 700,000 residents were opposed to holding the international gay event, and only a quarter supported it.

When the first local parade was held in the capital in 2002, former Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert withheld city funding for the event, after failing to convince organizers and participants to join Tel Aviv’s parade, where a gay pride procession has been held for years with a much larger turnout. The Jerusalem Municipality was later ordered by the Supreme Court to pay the organizers NIS 40,000 for the annual event, in keeping with the amount the municipality contributed toward previous city marches.

Gay Middle

June 30, 2005

Pride parades take place in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Eilat; Jerusalem parade threatened but successful

by Avi Ozeri
Sure….it’s become a regular event here in Israel and throughout the world. Annually, pride parades take place in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Eilat. Music, fun, dancing and sunshine. Little politics and certainly not a struggle for survival. Here in Tel Aviv, few of us had any intention of taking the 50 minute drive to Jerusalem to participate in the Jerusalem Pride Parade. Then…one day at the end of last week, we opened our morning newspapers to find that the mayor of Jerusalem, a religious zealot and far from a friend of the GLBT community, was making yet another last minute attempt to stop the Jerusalem parade. Claiming that the parade would be an affront and insult to the moral sensibilities of the citizens of Jerusalem he went to court and applied to have the parade permit cancelled. . The Jerusalem Open House, organizers of the parade, promised to take this threat up to the Israeli Supreme Court. Without the backing of his own municipality, the mayor went on this crusade on his own.

Just the possibility that an attempt was being made to stop the parade sent shock waves through Israel.
It was an aggressive act of changing the status quo. The Jerusalem parade has become a symbol of tolerance and dialogue. How dare they try to stop it now?!

The organizers of the Jerusalem Pride Parade (the Jerusalem Open House) have always stressed that as proud Jerusalemites, they respect the holiness of the city. The Jerusalem parade always reflected the special atmosphere of the city. As opposed to Pride Parades around the world, there are never loud music trucks, no "half naked" go-go boy and girls dancing. It’s a parade of people walking together upholding their right to be free in their city and live in equality.

It did not take long for the Israeli courts to hand down their decision – the parade will go on, the parade is not an affront to anyone. Judge Mussia Arad, in an unusual move, ordered Jerusalem’s Mayor Lupoliansky to personally pay NIS 30,000 (Euro6000) to the Jerusalem Open House in order to cover its legal costs and to underwrite the event, and the Jerusalem municipality was ordered to pay and additional NIS 30,000 (Euro6000). However, the seeds of hatred had been well planted by the mayor and his associates, and it was only a matter of time until the results appeared.

The Aguda, Israel’s National GLBT organization and the Jerusalem Open House
began an information campaign, explaining to the general public how important participation in the parade would be. Spokespeople for the Jerusalem Open House, human rights activities, along with various members of the Israeli Parliament and government ministers were interviewed both on television and radio, explaining how close we came to losing the right of having the pride parade. People from all walks of life were called upon to come to the parade to show support….and they did.

From Tel Aviv, we arrived to the Jerusalem city center, where the parade was to begin. We saw hundreds of ultra orthodox religious fanatics standing with anti-parade signs. We were heckled and cursed by them. The police managed to separate the protesters and the paraders. But then the hatred that had been stirred up by Jerusalem mayor and the ultra religious authorities hit a boiling point. As the parade proceeded along Jerusalem’s main street, an attacker jumped into the first group of marchers and stabbed a man. Blood from the victim’s chest seeped through his shirt as he sat, dazed, at the side of the road before an ambulance came to take him to a hospital, where he was said to be in serious condition. The stabber managed to attack two more people until he was finally apprehended. The victims were rushed to the hospital – all in a stable condition. Israeli press reports that the attacker will be tried on attempted murder charges.

As absurd as it may sound considering this terrible event, the parade was a huge success. One cannot help but recall the old anecdote that when Mrs. Lincoln was taken out of Fords Theatre after her husband was shot (President Abraham Lincoln), she was asked "so Mrs. Lincoln, besides the interruption did you enjoy the show???" The very fact that the parade took place, was a moral and political victory for all open-minded freedom loving people. The fact that thousands of people came to Jerusalem to march in solidarity with the GLBT community was a victory. But the attempt to stop it, and the terrible stabbing that took place, reminds us that we must be on our guard at all times. It was obvious that we must stand firm and constantly defend our rights – constantly be on the look out for those that would have us disenfranchised from society.

The parade, which some reports say reached 10,000 participants, marched through the city and concluded with a 2 hour musical happening at Jerusalem’s Bell Park. Participation in this parade was higher than in any of the previous Jerusalem parades. This was not just another pride parade – not a copy of other city’s parades. The spirit of Stonewall’s "founding sisters" returned. As in 1969 Stonewall, the GLBT community of Jerusalem was steadfast, stood united, sought justice and won.

Next year in Jerusalem for World Pride!

The Jerusalem Post –

July 8, 2005

March for pride and Jerusalem–a troubled success

By rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman
As I marched with my family in the gay pride parade last week, I was amazed at what a uniquely Jerusalem-style event it was. In other cities around the world, gay pride parades seem like an opportunity for the gay community to create a safe public space for itself and to act out some of its more bizarre fantasies. The Jerusalem parade had very little of that. Our parade had lots of ordinary Jerusalemites (not known for flamboyant dress in general) imaging a Jerusalem united by mutual respect, tolerance and openness.

For many it was the first time joining in the parade. Many of the marchers were straight, brought out by the behavior of Mayor Uri Lupolianski and other Orthodox politicians. Lupolianski’s attempt to prevent the march and his abusive attack on the gay and lesbian community redefined the purpose of the parade.

The annual gay pride parade has become one of those rare events that transcends the narrow boundaries of a specific issue (the rights of gays and lesbians in this case) and symbolizes broader, more universal issues. It has become a struggle over our understanding of democracy.
Deputy Mayor Yigal Amedi (a secular politician) supported banning the parade on the grounds that it would offend many residents of the city. Civics 101 teaches that democracy is not only based on majority rules. Democracy is also about protecting and cherishing minorities. If that were limited to minorities that we liked or agreed with, it wouldn’t be much of a democracy. The glory of true democracies is that they recognize the importance of supporting unpopular ideas and groups.

As in years past the parade was marred by the despicable behavior of the protesters hurling verbal abuse and bags of human excrement and urine. This year, however, the violence escalated and three people were stabbed by a haredi protester. The stage was set for this outrageous attack months ago. In one of the lowest expressions of interfaith cooperation, leading clergy from the three monotheistic religions, led by right-wing Christians, organized a public press conference condemning the gay pride events (which have since been postponed due to the disengagement in August).

Palestinian Christians have no love for Christian Zionist evangelicals and neither are particularly embraced by most Orthodox rabbis. This region has been starved for models of interfaith cooperation to free us from the cycle of violence and revenge. On those issues these religious leaders cannot work together. Pathetically, they succeeded in finding a common voice in order to attack gays and lesbians who wanted to come to celebrate in Jerusalem. I consider that a "hilul hashem" – a desecration of the divine name.

Mayor Lupolianski’s demonization of the gay and lesbian community created the climate that empowered the evil man who wounded the marchers. Opponents of the march will probably blame the victim, as is so often the case. The mayor must be held responsible for his dangerous statements and malicious behavior. Residents of Jerusalem must demand that Jerusalem remain both a holy and a democratic city. The prophet Zechariah (chapter eight) calls on us to imagine the squares of Jerusalem filled with old men and women, boys and girls playing together.

The prophet adds (8:12), "Do not contrive evil against one another; Those are the things I hate, declares the Lord." If we wish to live to see Zechariah’s prophecy come true we have to resolve to fight evil by speaking lovingly and respectfully – especially when we disagree.
The writer is rabbi of Kehillat Kol Haneshama in Jerusalem.
Copyright 1995-2005

December 15, 2005

Tel Aviv to build first-ever gay center

Municipality approves initial budget of NIS 4 million, fixed annual budget of NIS 300,000 for Israel’s first-ever homosexual-lesbian center

by Eli Senyor
The Tel Aviv Municipality has decided to build a new statutory institution in the city, which will serve as a community center for members of the homosexual-lesbian community. The center will be established as a municipal building, and the next elected mayors will be committed to its maintenance, regardless of their political views.

As a first step, the municipality will transfer NIS 4 million (about USD 900,000) to renovate the building, which will be chosen in the next few days. The municipality also committed to a fixed annual budgeting of NIS 300,000 (about USD 67,000), similar to the budgeting of any other municipal center. The new center will be Israel’s first-ever homosexual-lesbian municipal center, which will provide the community with health and culture services, as well as other civilian services.

The project’s founding father is Itai Pinkas, a member of the Tel Aviv City Council, who has led an uncompromising battle for the rights of the city’s homosexual and lesbians ever since he was elected. " This is an important day for the city and the community," Pinkas said after the municipality’s decision was made. " By building this center, Tel Aviv joins an honorable club of advanced cities like New York, Los Angeles and Paris. I thank the mayor, who was a full partner in the initiative and understood the community’s needs," he added.

"This is definitely a historical and important event in the community’s life. This municipal building is designated to serve as the place where the community members will find the core of their lives," Pinkas explained.

Services for youth, elderly, ethnic minorities

Public institutions and local authorities have refrained until now from officially and fully acknowledging the needs of the homosexual-lesbian community. Acknowledgement was received mainly through various budgets, usually using the community’s representatives, in favor of special events or as part of municipal relief committees.

Now, following year-long negotiations, the Tel Aviv Municipality has agreed to acknowledge the gay community’s needs and to provide its members with a budgeted municipal building. Community members who will arrive at the center will be able to receive a large variety of services, such as concerts, cultural events, exhibitions by young artists, workshops, body and mental health services, support groups for HIV carriers, courses, legal aid, youth groups, social workers, a kindergarten, a library, etc. The municipal center will focus on providing services for four focused groups: elderly people, youth, parents and community members belonging to any ethnic minority.