Anti-Pride Parade Protests Take a Turn

Leading hareidi-religious rabbis say that anti-parade protests should be put on a low burner. "Prayers are more effective than rallies," they say.

Hillel Fendel ,

Prayer at the Kotel
Prayer at the Kotel

Leading hareidi-religious rabbis say that anti-Gay Pride Parade protests should be put on a low burner. "Prayers are more effective than rallies," they say.

Rabbi Shmuel HaLevy Vozner, Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, and other leading rabbinical sages in Bnei Brak have issued a statement against participation in the "protests and similar events" against the upcoming gay-pride parade in Jerusalem.

The homosexual march is scheduled to take place along King David St. in Jerusalem on Thursday at 5 PM, followed by a rally at 8 PM. Some 7,000 policemen will be on hand to try to neutralize violence, though Jerusalem Police Chief Ilan Franco says he has no illusions that the event will be "violence-free."

"We again warn regarding the gathering of youngsters in the streets of Bnei Brak for protests and similar events," the rabbis wrote, "and we hereby present our position, the position of Torah, that the Sages are not pleased with these gatherings, and whoever studies Torah should guard himself and stay away from them."

The rabbis even say that it is known that the organizers are reckless and "do not have fear of G-d opposite them, and joining up with them is a spiritual danger... A significant number of them are not yeshiva students, but youngsters from other towns who are looking for an excuse to go wild, burn trash bins and destroy public property... Our strength is in our mouths, in prayer to G-d that He will bring down a spirit of purity to enable us to serve Him truly."

A broadcaster on a hareidi radio station told Army Radio today that even participation in "peaceful" demonstrations is not recommended. "We feel that the best way to deal with this issue is quietly," he explained, "so as not to expose our children any more than necessary to this evil [of homosexual behavior]."

Quiet but Strong
At the same time, placards have been posted around the city calling to "bodily block the disgrace" - though without violence.  The posters  read,
"At 5 PM, we will stand at the corner of Agron and King David Streets, and along the way up to Liberty Bell Park, and we will block the march of disgrace with our bodies. There is no need to lift a hand, no need to yell or condemn. We will stand quietly and with a prayer to the G-d of Israel, and we will not move until the organizers of the march and the police understand that the march cannot happen and they will disperse to their homes. We call upon the people for whom Jerusalem is precious to take part."  Separate areas for men and women will be available.

Prime Minister's Daughter
Dana Olmert, the Prime Minister's daughter, came out publicly today in favor of the homosexual march. An avowed lesbian, Ms. Olmert said, "The question of why we march in Jerusalem is one that doesn't even deserve a response. It's like asking why people should have the right to vote. This parade is a political event, and as such, we need not ask permission to do it... If someone asks why we are holding it in Jerusalem, I simply say, 'Sorry, I have no dialogue with you.'"

Dana Olmert said that she is pleased with the controversy the parade has aroused, and hopes it will bring more and more people "out of the closet."

The Supreme Court, convening Wednesday afternoon, is expected to reject three petitions against the parade. The suits were submitted by Trade Minister Eli Yishai of Shas, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky, and Hevron activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir. Marzel had first asked Chief Justice Dorit Beinish and the other justices scheduled to hear his suit, to disqualify themselves because of their "known positions," but they refused.

Minister Yishai argued that the homosexual march is a "vulgar event, that offends and violates the sanctity of Jerusalem." He said that in approving the parade, the police had not given sufficient weight to the "offense caused to the sensibilities of the hareidi public."

The Marzel-Ben-Gvir suit, filed last week, stated that the parade "would lead to public disturbances and riots on an unprecedented scale."

In response to the above suit, Jerusalem's legal counsel said that previous Supreme Court decisions on the matter had not ruled out such parades even when offense is caused to the religious community.

MKs: Court Must Weigh the Core of the Matter
This response outraged Jerusalem's mayor, who then filed a suit of his own against the march. Objections to the counsel's response were also raised in a letter from the National Union/National Religious Party to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. The MKs wrote that the central issue is not whether the amount of received threats of violence is sufficient to warrant canceling the parade. It is rather "the principled question of freedom of speech vs. public sensibilities."

The letter notes that, contrary to the impression left by the city's legal counsel, the Supreme Court in its ruling last summer did not opine on this matter. Chief Justice Beinish wrote at the time, following a round of violence that led the organizers themselves to call off the mass march, that in light of that development, "we are exempt from deciding the point of balance between freedom of speech and protection of public sensitivities."

Opponents of the march plan on holding a "march of beasts" in Jerusalem this afternoon.  They wish to show that bestiality and homosexuality are equally forbidden by Torah law.

Violence on Both Sides
Seventeen anti-parade protestors were arrested in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem last night. In addition, civil suits have been filed against the police for causing wanton damage to homes while dispersing a violent demonstration earlier this week. The police used water cannons to spray heavy streams of water into at least one apartment, rendering the home uninhabitable.