Today, 3,000 people will march in Jerusalem's Gay Pride parade under heavy security — one police officer for every two marchers.
The security is in response to past violence and threats directed at gays by Jerusalem's ultra-orthodox Haredi community. This year, Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox deputy mayor Rabbi Yitzhak Pindrus announced plans to march 50 donkeys through the streets as a statement about the Gay Pride march.
Said Pindrus: "This expresses what we think — that this is a beastly act." His spokesman later said: "Donkeys also have rights to be recognised as couples. We are in favour of donkey rights."
But police told Pindrus he would not be allowed to parade the donkeys: "Police have instead agreed that cardboard cut-outs of donkeys will be allowed to greet the marchers as a counter-protest."
"Organizers deliberately postponed the parade so it would coincide with the first anniversary of a notorious hate crime in Tel Aviv, when a still unknown gunman dead two people and injured 11 others at a gay youth hangout in the city centre.
The parade is marking the August 1, 2009 shooting according to the Hebrew calender.
Thursday's participants will be protected by one policeman for every two marchers. More than 1,500 police will cover the route, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told the German Press-Agency dpa.
The Jerusalem Pride and Tolerance Parade comes weeks after its counterpart was held in more secular Tel Aviv, where attendance of the largest gay parade in the Middle East is usually massive.
In Jerusalem, with a huge ultra-Orthodox population, the annual event is far more controversial than in the Mediterranean metropolis, seen by many as a gay capital and bubble of tolerance in an otherwise hostile region."
For the first time ever, the parade will end in front of Israel's parliament, the Knesset.
In related news, check out this "Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a
Homosexual Orientation in Our Community" which has been circulating online, signed by dozens of rabbis.
It reads, in part:
"All human beings are created in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect (kevod haberiyot). Every Jew is obligated to fulfill the entire range of mitzvot between person and person in relation to persons who are homosexual or have feelings of same sex attraction. Embarrassing, harassing or demeaning someone with a homosexual orientation or same-sex attraction is a violation of Torah prohibitions that embody the deepest values of Judaism…The question of whether sexual orientation is primarily genetic, or rather environmentally generated, is irrelevant to our obligation to treat human beings with same-sex attractions and orientations with dignity and respect."