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Last Updated: Friday, 20 June, 2003, 21:47 GMT 22:47 UK
Gays parade in Jerusalem
Jerusalem Gay Pride
Gay Pride used to be more a Tel Aviv thing
Gay Pride 2003 has passed off peacefully in Jerusalem and the port city of Haifa despite fears of disruption by Jewish religious groups.

Thousands of homosexual men and women danced in the city streets, many of them dressed in drag and waving rainbow flags.

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, himself an ultra-Orthodox Jew, shrugged off criticism of his decision to approve the march - only the second in the city's history.

"Everyone has his own parade," he said. "I myself will be marching in another parade."

Marches originated in US in 1970 to commemorate the Stonewall gay rights riots
Events now held in more than 20 countries and attract more then 10m people annually

Rainbow flags put up along the march route earlier in the week had been torn down - an action claimed by the outlawed Jewish movement Kach who said the parade undermines the city's Jewish character.

When a small group of right-wingers tried to protest at the march on Friday, police physically removed them from the route.

The Israeli Interior Minister himself, Avraham Poraz, brought a message of support to the marchers.

He said: "There are a few ministers in the government who aren't happy that I'm taking part in this event but, despite everything, I have come to wish you a happy holiday. We are all proud of you."

Tragedy strikes

One of the organisers of this year's events, which saw a march through Haifa for the first time, was killed in the suicide bomb attack in Jerusalem on 11 June along with 16 other people.

The decision was taken to postpone the parade by a week from last Friday as a mark of respect for Alan Beer and marchers observed a minute of silence for both Mr Beer and Jewish and Arab victims of the conflict before moving off.

Homosexuality is legal in Israel and the courts recognise the rights of gay couples.

Gay Pride has been celebrated in Israel's commercial capital, Tel Aviv, for years but religious sentiment long kept revellers out of Jerusalem.

In Haifa, one ultra-Orthodox Jew objector said the paraders should "go back to Tel Aviv", Haaretz newspaper reports.

US rabbis approve gay partnership
30 Mar 00  |  Americas
Israel's first gay MP enters parliament
04 Nov 02  |  Middle East
Muslims step out at Gay Pride
24 Jun 01  |  Americas

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