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Rare religious
alliance protests gay event in Jerusalem

Rare religious
alliance protests gay event in Jerusalem

Israel's chief rabbis joined Christian and Muslim clerics at a second news conference on Wednesday to protest plans to hold the international WorldPride gay festival in Jerusalem this August.

Israel's chief rabbis joined Christian and Muslim clerics in a rare alliance to protest plans to hold an international gay festival in Jerusalem this summer. The 10-day WorldPride festival, last held in Rome in 2000, is to include street parties, workshops, and a gay film festival. Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox Jewish mayor, Uri Lupolianski, says he is powerless to interfere, as public events are licensed by the police, not city hall. Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said Thursday that police had received a number of requests not to issue a permit for the festival but had not yet made a decision. At a news conference Wednesday, Yona Metzger, one of the chief rabbis, pleaded with the festival's organizers to take it elsewhere. "Please do not damage the holiness of Jerusalem," he said. "Preserve its character, preserve its peace...cancel your plans." Metzger was joined at the news conference by Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Latin patriarch Michel Sabbah, and other Christian and Muslim officials in demanding the event be canceled. Opposition to the event has forged some unusual alliances. Earlier this month evangelical Christians and rabbis from the United States joined forces with ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews to warn that holding the festival in Jerusalem could provoke divine retribution along the lines of the biblical story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Muslim cleric Abdel-Salem Menasra repeated that warning on Wednesday. "God destroyed those cities and everyone in them," he said. "I'm warning everybody, God will destroy Jerusalem together with the Jews, the Christians, and the Muslims." Some participants at the news conference described gays as lower than animals, while others described their lifestyle as unnatural and unhealthy. Jerusalem Open House director Hagai El-Ad, one of the festival organizers, told the Associated Press that the offensive tone of the remarks made him more determined than ever to press ahead with plans for the August 18-28 event. "If anyone had any hesitation about how important this event is then after the unfortunate remarks made at Wednesday's press conference, I think no such questions remain," he said. "It's important that one of the first signs of interfaith dialogue we have encountered here in Jerusalem takes place around such a negative message." A statement from the Jerusalem Open House said it was vital to hold the event in such a contentious locale. "The first WorldPride, Rome 2000, brought to the heart of Europe, and indeed to the pope's doorstep, the message that gays and lesbians are and always have been a vital part of humanity," according to the statement on the group's Web site. "It is time to demonstrate to our community, to our neighbors and peers, and indeed to the world not only that we belong but that our love and our pride can cross the harshest borders that divide people." In the past, Israeli gays have held small marches in Jerusalem that have passed relatively peacefully, with a few shouted insults from onlookers and minor acts of vandalism. The Rome event attracted tens of thousands of participants. Organizers of the festival, under the theme "Love Without Borders," say they want to promote coexistence. A majority of Jerusalem's more than 600,000 residents are either Orthodox Jews or Muslim or Christian Palestinians, traditional communities that oppose homosexuality. Clerics at Wednesday's conference said they would form a joint committee to lobby politicians and police to prevent the festival. (AP)

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