A rainbow across the sky of Jerusalem

07:56, July 30, 2010      

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"A rainbow comes across the sky of the overshadowed Jerusalem."

This is a poster carried by a participant at Thursday's gay parade. Thousands of people took part in the annual march. Dressed in bright-color, they created in the holy city a colorful stream of rainbow flags, the symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) social movement.

"This year's march is special. We are here to commemorate last year's shooting in Tel Aviv," said 27-year-old Gaya, a political- science undergraduate.

On August 1, 2009, an as-yet-identified gunman burst into the bar, located on the premises of the Israeli LGBT Association, and sprayed the room with gunfire, killing two and wounding 10 others.

"We decide to dedicate the march to struggle for our community' s basic rights, to protest against the violence that begins with denying the rights and ends in murder," read a statement of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH), one of the event's organizer.

Nearly everyone in the parade was wearing a pink wristband, written on which is "march for equality." But not everyone is ready to treat them with equality.

In the conservative and religiously observant city of Jerusalem, the gay marchers didn't go too far to hear disapproval. About 100 meters from their starting point, dozens of ultra-orthodox Jews protested against the parade by carrying boards reading "get out of Jerusalem," "holyland not homoland."

One of the march participant was angered by the protestors and approached to argue with them. He was quickly stopped by several policeman at the scene.

Heavy police forces were deployed to prevent any potential confrontation between the two sides. Along the 1.5-km-long route, nearly 1,000 embattled police officers were keeping a close eye on the crowd. Along with them was a police helicopter hovering above heads, and two balloon scouts floating over the Knesset, Israel's parliament, and other key areas.

The Israeli police might not be overreacting. In 2005, when religious Jewish protestors tried to prevent a gay parade in Jerusalem, despite heavy police presence, one demonstrator stabbed two of the marchers.

Aside from the organized protest from the ultra-orthodox and rightists, the parade also faced abuses from ordinary Jerusalemites. A woman in her 60s, dragging a wheeled grocery basket, shouted "shame," "blasphemy" at the crowd from the sidewalks.

"Of course we are upset about this. But we are used to it," said Irit, who attends the march with her lover and two children.

For the first time in the eight-year-history of the event, the marchers went in front of the Knesset, calling for concrete actions from the legislative body to ensure the rights of the gay community in Israel.

"The Israeli Knesset is the place to protest this, our parliament that we're marching on today. To demand our usurped rights," Noam Gal, the incoming chairperson in the JOH, told Xinhua.

Across the Middle East, where homosexuality is often regarded as a taboo or even a perversion in religious nations, the Jewish state enjoys one of the most open societies.

Gays and lesbians can have common-law marriages and can serve openly in the army and in the legislature. Festive gay parades are held annually in some local cities.

However, the struggle of Israeli homosexuals for equality and respect is still a rocky road. Ultra-Orthodox Jews often demonstrate against homosexuality, and some lawmakers from religious parties have even compared it to drug addiction and disease.

Source: Xinhua


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