Bodyguards assigned to Jerusalem mayor after he allows gay pride parade
JERUSALEM — Special to the Globe and Mail
Israel's secret service assigned two bodyguards to Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski yesterday after ultrareligious groups threatened him for permitting the city's Gay Pride march to go ahead.
At the same time, event organizers accused Mr. Lupolianski, the city's first ultra-Orthodox Jewish mayor, of undermining the event by not giving it the level of municipal support it has enjoyed in the past.
About 3,000 homosexual, lesbian and bisexual Israelis, some in army uniform and others in full drag, marched through the city centre to a lively party in a park, under a banner proclaiming "Love Without Borders."
"This is exactly the message this city needs: that we can have a pluralistic society in which all people can co-exist," said Noa Sattath, head of Open House, the city's gay and lesbian centre, which organized the third annual event.
A small group of protesters heckled the parade-goers, while some ultraorthodox Jewish leaders condemned the event as "ugly" and unsuitable for the holy city.
Dozens of armed police escorted the marchers, who carried rainbow banners and large clusters of balloons. Many participants wore large rabbit ears, a response to remarks by David Basri, a well-known Kabbalistic rabbi, who has derided gays as "subhuman" and said they would be reincarnated as rabbits.
One Israeli soldier in full uniform, who gave her name as Reuma, said she was not gay but wanted to add her support to the marchers.
"Kudos to them," she said. "I'm very proud to support them and very pleased they want to express their identity in this way."
Sharon Omer, a 27-year-old software programmer from Tel Aviv, said it is difficult to be gay in Jerusalem because of the city's "heavy religious presence."
"In Tel Aviv people pay no notice if gay people walk hand in hand or kiss in public, but Jerusalem is such a conservative city," said Ms. Omer.
Still, Jerusalem is planning to host the World Pride international gathering next summer.