Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Service
San Francisco Chronicle Friday, July 1, 2005
Jerusalem - Violence marred the annual gay pride parade for the first time Thursday when an ultra-Orthodox man broke through heavy security and stabbed three of the participants, leaving them with light to moderate wounds.
Other protesters, most of them religious Jews, lined the mile-long route of the "Love Without Borders" march through central Jerusalem. Some held placards that read "You are corrupting our children" while others shouted insults. One placard read "Jerusalem is not San Francisco."
Thirteen protesters were arrested, including one man who threw a soiled diaper at the marchers then attacked a photographer trying to record the scene.
Outside the Great Synagogue, where about 100 protesters shouted anti-gay slogans behind a thick police cordon, two members of the Knesset (parliament) tried to stop the march by sitting in the middle of King George V Street, the city's main thoroughfare. They were eventually dragged away by police.
The violence -- in stark contrast to the peaceful events of previous years -- came after attempts by the ultra-Orthodox mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lupolianski, to ban the march.
That decision was overturned by a Jerusalem court Sunday, when a judge ordered the municipality to provide the relevant permits, decorate the route with rainbow banners and pay $13,000 in damages to Jerusalem Open House, which organized the march. The mayor also was ordered to pay damages out of his own pocket.
Earlier, a rare coalition of Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders had urged the cancellation of a separate event called World Pride, originally scheduled to be held in Jerusalem in August. After consultations with police, the organizers delayed that celebration until next year because it coincided with the date of the planned Israeli pullout from Gaza.
The controversy seemed to increase support for Thursday's event, which attracted about 8,000 people, about twice as many as last year. The procession through the city center ended with a large open-air dance party in a city park.
Hundreds of police escorted the marchers under the personal command of Jerusalem City Police Chief Ilan Franco. In an unprecedented security operation, armed paramilitary border police standing every 5 yards cordoned off the streets surrounding Liberty Bell Park to allow revelers to dance undisturbed into the night.
Jerusalem Open House director Hagay Elad blamed the violence on the mayor.
"What we saw here today is a direct result of the incitement that took place during the past few weeks against the homo-lesbian community," Elad said. "This is not the first time we have seen how incitement in Israel leads to physical violence, which begins with Mayor Uri Lupolianski and his associates. "
David Bernstein, 23, a real estate broker wearing the black hat, frock coat and side-curls of the ultra-Orthodox, watched the parade in silence but did not hide his disapproval.
"I don't believe there is such a thing as homosexuality," said Bernstein. "It's simply not natural. I think the mayor was right to try and stop this march, particularly here in the holy city of Jerusalem."
Beneath a banner identifying his group as "Proud diplomats in the foreign service," Ziv Nevo-Kulman, 35, a former Israeli cultural attache in Tokyo, said it was important for gays and lesbians to be able to express their identity openly in the nation's capital.
"It's still easier to be gay in Tel Aviv, but things are improving," Nevo- Kulman said. "The Israeli civil service is very liberal when it comes to granting equal rights for gay couples. When I was posted to Tokyo, my partner was with me and he enjoyed full rights as if he were a spouse."
A 30-year-old Palestinian chef who declined to give his name said he had to come to predominantly Jewish West Jerusalem to express his sexuality. "It's not possible to be openly gay in Palestinian society," he said.
In stark contrast to other gay pride events around the world, even in Tel Aviv, only a handful of drag queens and very little exposed flesh were on view. Dafna Stromza, spokeswoman for Jerusalem Open House, said the gay and lesbian community in Jerusalem wanted to be accepted into the cultural mosaic of the city and so purposely toned down public expressions of their sexuality.
"The message is one of tolerance and acceptance and pluralism," she said. "Many of the participants are religious or conservative. We hold tolerance in Jerusalem to be of the utmost importance. What the marchers are expressing is not their sexual identity, but their belief in pluralism and diversity."
Annessa Kernberg, a 17-year-old high school student from San Francisco, cheered the parade from the window of the hostel where she was staying with a group of teenagers on a United Synagogue Youth tour.
"It's something that's been suppressed in the Jewish religion, and I think it's something we should embrace," she said. "It feels like home."