Marching with Pride for Peace and Acceptance
Jerusalem Pride: June 21st, 2007
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This week, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and our supporters will again struggle for our freedom of expression and civil rights in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance is a personal, social and community effort aimed at creating a more tolerance socialety where all people are accepted and respected for who they are. By creating a public space for members of the LGBT community and its allies, Jerusalem Pride aims to enable Jerusalemites at different stages of the coming-out process to find a meaningful existence in the Holy City.
In Jerusalem homophobia is an unquestionable fact of life in many communities. Pride questions the abuse of "religious" values used to justify discrimination and brings the struggle for univeral humanism to the most sacred front- Israel. Internationally, Pride leverages Jerusalem’s universal status to capture the attention of the world and share its message with a global audience.
Last November’s violent and intimidating events only served as proof that we must assure that our rights as citizens of Jerusalem. This summer as in past years, all Jerusalemites who value their freedom will march with us in Downtown Jerusalem. Our community will take to the streets with Pride and bring tolerance to Jerusalem. This summer’s march will put Jerusalem, Israel and our leaders to the true test of democracy and civil rights. We will not let the threats of violence silence us or challenge Israeli democracy. This historic battle on the forefront of human rights in Jerusalem has already met with considerable challenges in past year and this year has not been easier.
After submitting a formal request to hold the Jerusalem Pride and Tolerance March to the Jerusalem Police, in February 2007, the Jerusalem Open House nervously awaited the response. We received a letter from Israeli police a few weeks ago, giranting preliminary permission to hold the annual LGBT pride march in Jerusalem on June 21st, 2007.
"Let there be no doubt - the police department is fully obligated by the high court ruling" said Jerusalem District Police commander, Major-General Ilan Franco in the letter.
Noa Sattath, Executive Director of the Jerusalem Open House said that "the letter proves that all parties have learned their lesson from last year’s events, realizing that protecting the rule of law is in everyone’s best interest"
Two weeks ago, Israel witnessed a surprising and frightening development when members of the Knesset (MKs) backed a bill that would allow the Jerusalem City Council (controlled by Ultra-Orthodox representatives) to ban any parade in Jerusalem, that they feel offends religious sensitivities. 40 members of the Knesset have backed the bill, some, unfortunately, from the Kadima party. Heads of the Labor party did not publicly oppose the bill. MKs haven’t realized, apparently, that such bill would deprive Israel’s capital of a pluralistic, democratic future.
In response to the Knesset vote on June 6th in support of the first reading of a proposed law against parades and marches in Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Open House promoted a petition against the law, and in favor of freedom of speech and democracy in Jerusalem. We received overwhelming responses from all over the world to the petition received Hundreds of people signed the peition and on Friday, June 8th, it was printed with 40 prominent signatures in Haaretz Newspaper. The signatures included professors, doctors, lawyers, rabbis, politicians and leaders of NGOs from Europe, North America and Israel. To read and sign the petition go to http://220.127.116.11/minisite/gaava/.
Last week, leaders of the Jerusalem Ultra-Orthodox community, declared that every method of fighting the march is legitimate, thus subtly condoning violence against the LGBT community. The violence reported so far this year includes: threatening phone calls in the middle of the night to homes of board and staff members of the Jerusalem Open House, a traditional Jewish death curse (pulsa de’nura) intended to threaten the march organizers, a bomb against the march that exploded in April 2007, and now, threats of riots all over the city. To read more click here.
Despite the threats, we continue with the hectic preparations for the march. "We march in Jerusalem which is our city in order to voice the values of our community: equality, dignity and freedom of speech. The threats against us only highlight the importance of our struggle" said Noa Sattath, executive director of the Jerusalem Open House, "The forces working against us want us back in the closet. This is a test to the fragile Israeli democracy, specifically after the Knesset supported the outrageous bill last week, undermining freedom of expression and the right to assemble in Israel’s capital. "
Late last week the Jerusalem District Police issued a final approval of the Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance. We will take to the streets in just 5 days. To read more go to: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/870804.html. To read an article by Noa Sattath, Executive Director of the Jerusalem Open House, go to: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3409756,00.html.