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Last Updated: Friday, 10 November 2006, 13:09 GMT
Voices: Gay Pride in Jerusalem
Gay Pride parade
An Israeli soldier holds a rainbow-coloured flag at a gay pride parade in Jerusalem on 3 June 2004
Thousands of gays, lesbians and civil rights activists have held a rally in a Jerusalem stadium, despite opposition from ultra-Orthodox Jews.

A gay pride parade through the streets of the holy city had to be cancelled due to security concerns.

Here, people from Israel and the Palestinian territories discuss the increasing opposition they face for being gay.

MATTHEW, BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK

I'm a 26 year old American working for an NGO associated with the church in Bethlehem. I've been here for seven months and have an Israeli partner.

My Palestinian friends all know that I am gay and I've experienced no trouble here in the West Bank. I was surprised by the acceptance and openness of my colleagues. There is a gay community in Bethlehem; it is not overt, but it does exist. I can be myself here.

The massacre in Beit Hanoun on Wednesday was horrific and if a possible security threat is truly the reason that the march has been cancelled then I support that. I suspect the authorities have used this as an excuse though. The Palestinians have declared three days of mourning so I am confident that there is no security risk until this is over.

I haven't witnessed anything from Palestinians by way of resistance to the march. I have heard that some people here wanted to attend but could not get passes.

The protest of the fundamentalists does not concern me. I am concerned about the curtailing of freedoms. It is essential that in a free, pluralistic society, people have the right to peaceful assembly and to partake in loving relationships of their choice.

The Vatican have said that the march should be banned to respect the "feelings of millions of Jewish, Muslim and Christian believers." I am a Christian and this is a false argument. There are homosexuals in all religions.

OR SHIMONOV, RAMAN HASHARON, ISRAEL

I'm just a regular 20-year-old guy from a small city in Israel. I'm a music major and attend a performing arts school near my hometown in Ramat Hashron. I'm not really religious; I'd describe myself as secular.

If you're gay in a big city like Tel Aviv it's easier but if you compare us to our neighbours we are very advanced. I've been 'out' since I was very young and I've never experienced anything too severe.

There didn't used to be any outrage from religious Jews. Then at last year's parade this man started stabbing people. I was really scared that this year someone might have a gun.

The ultra-Orthodox movement has always rejected us but never this loudly. During the last election the religious parties were all focusing on the gay aspect, something they've never done before. I'm assuming they just want something to fight against.

The Muslims have been quiet; I'm assuming they are objecting but you don't hear them as much as the Jews.

The police have been trying for days to get the march cancelled and have come up with several different reasons why it should not go ahead.

Despite being scared to death of possible violence during the parade I really wanted to attend. The cancellation was a huge disappointment. When the extremists started with the violence thing, well then it became about gay rights.

If we back down then they will think they can do whatever they want. This is what people who opposed the march do not understand. Next they will be opposing driving on the Shabbat or opposing people who wear 'inappropriate' clothing. Before you know it we'll be like Iran.

SILONA BERR, TEL AVIV, ISRAEL

The whole conflict started because religious people in Israel did not want the gay parade to take place on the streets of Jerusalem. But, of course, this is not the first time that the parade has been held in the city. Sure, there were voices of opposition but I don't remember such a fuss being made before.

I'm from Tel Aviv, the most free city in Israel, so thankfully I don't live among the haters. If you don't shove your sexuality in people's faces then they don't mind. I haven't yet needed to cope with the real battles of gay people such as the right to get married or have kids; basic liberties that are taken from us here.

Jerusalem is one of the most sacred cities in the world so I do understand why people did not want the parade to be held there. It should have been moved to Tel Aviv right from the start so that this whole mess could have been avoided.

The fundamentalists knew that they would have the backing of others in the war against homosexuality. And just like any other extremists and freaks of religion, they used intimidation and terror to get their own way.



SEE ALSO
Muslims step out at Gay Pride
24 Jun 01 |  Americas
US rabbis approve gay partnership
30 Mar 00 |  Americas



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