Israel’s gay community united in face of diversity

By Dion Nissenbaum MCT

JERUSALEM – Jerusalem’s lesbian and gay community has unintentionally succeed in doing something that has eluded the world’s greatest thinkers: Unite the three major monotheistic religions.

Orthodox Jews, conservative Muslims and prominent Christian leaders are united in their opposition to a gay pride march in Jerusalem, a city that’s holy to all three religions.

The pope called for today’s march to be canceled. Muslim leaders criticized it as a disgrace. Orthodox Jews organized weeks of violent demonstrations.

Jerusalem police repeatedly warned that violent opposition could lead to tragedy and urged Israeli leaders to call it off. Yesterday, faced with new security concerns related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, organizers gave in to the pressure, shelved the march and offered to hold a more isolated rally at Hebrew University’s stadium instead.

The city’s ultra-Orthodox opponents of the march immediately hailed the deal as a victory.

“A lot of people are very happy because a level of purity has been returned to Jerusalem,” said Rabbi Yehuda Levin, head of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. “The holy city of Jerusalem now breathes a sigh of relief that it is not going to be sullied by this kind of event.”

Even though the agreement was expected to defuse potential clashes tomorrow, the months-long emotional controversy evolved into much more than a debate over the gay pride march. It became a battle over the soul of Jerusalem.

“We are struggling with something that is much deeper than gay rights,” Sa’ar Nathaniel, Jerusalem’s only openly gay city councilman, said before the agreement was announced. “We are struggling about the image of Jerusalem: Will it be pluralistic and tolerant and democratic, or a twin city of Tehran or Kabul?