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Bnei Brak Joins Violent Protests in Jerusalem Against Gay March

Protests against next week’s gay parade in Jerusalem spread to Bnei Brak as hareidi religious Jews ratchet up the pressure to cancel the event.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 6/15/2007, 10:07 AM

Protestors against the scheduled Gay Pride parade gathered in Jerusalem's hareidi-religious neighborhood of Mea Shearim Thursday, setting dumpsters ablaze and flinging garbage into the street. The enraged residents also hurled stones at a bus traveling through the neighborhood.

Less than 24 hours earlier, the streets of Jerusalem’s hareidi-religious Beit Yisroel neighborhood were filled with protestors, some of whom burned a trash can and threw rocks, injuring a police officer. Four protestors were arrested in the melee.

The Jerusalem unrest was matched by protests in hareidi-religious neighborhoods in Bnei Brak, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.

Hundreds of observant Jews turned out for the demonstration in Bnei Brak, with some hurling rocks at police and burning several trash containers.

The demonstrations were set off by the news that the Jerusalem Police Department had approved a permit for the Gay Pride Parade sponsored by the homosexual-lesbian Open House organization for the second year in a row.

Some 7,000 police officers have been assigned to secure the event, despite clear warnings by the hareidi-religious community that it will not tolerate the spectacle of homosexuals and lesbians parading down the streets of the holy city.

“There is a groundswell of intense emotions that I think will turn violent,” warned Shmuel Popenheim, a spokesman for the Eida Hareidit Religious Council.

The same council is organizing a massive demonstration, set for Sunday in Jerusalem, in which at least 100,000 people are expected to protest the homosexual march. Sunday’s event, to be held on a main road near the Mea Shearim neighborhood, has also been granted a permit by police.

Last year’s parade was cancelled and a much smaller, private event was held in the Givat Ram campus at Hebrew University after it became clear that the security risks were too high to ignore.

Vice Premier Shimon Peres, elected this week to become the next president of Israel, has promised hareidi-religious leaders he will do what he can to block this year’s gay parade.