Jerusalem mayor denies trying to rain on gay parade

jerusalem | Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski denied reports that he is working behind the scenes to prevent a major international gay pride parade from taking place in the Israel capital this summer.

According to a report in Yediot Ahronot, Jerusalem’s first haredi mayor, who has called the local annual gay parades “ugly, insulting, offensive and provocative,” has promised his 95-year-old rabbi and spiritual mentor, Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, that he will do “everything in his power” to prevent what he called the “World Pride Event” from coming to Jerusalem this summer.

The report also claimed that, besides assuring his rabbi that he would do all he could to prevent the parade, Lupolianski contacted the executive vice president of Agudath Yisrael of America, Rabbi Shmuel Bloom, urging him to use his connection to thwart the “parade of abominations” from taking place in the capital.

But in a statement this week, Lupolianski’s spokesman, Gidi Schmerling, said the report was incorrect, and noted that by law the mayor does not have the authority to approve or prevent city marches.

Lupolianski has previously acknowledged that he would have banned such parades if he had the authority to do so. The authority, however, rests with the police.

A Jerusalem police spokeswoman said a request for a permit for the parade — which is scheduled to take place as part of a 10-day “Gay Pride Event 2005” celebration in mid-August — had not yet been made.

It is not clear whether this summer’s planned unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which is expected to overburden police manpower, could end up scuttling the planned international gay pride parade, an event which would require massive security.

The idea of holding such an international parade in Jerusalem — a largely conservative city with a strong religious and traditional makeup — is seen by many, even outside haredi circles, as out of touch with both the spiritual character of the city as well as the sensitivities of its observant residents.

“Even people distant from Jerusalem must grasp that this is a sacred city for the Jewish people and the world as a whole,” Lupolianski said in an interview last year, a day after the previous local gay parade.

But local organizers said this week that the event — which they said would “definitely take place,” opposition or no opposition from the mayor — would be a boon for the city.

“This is a unique opportunity for Jerusalem in terms of its public image and represents a huge opportunity for the city,” said the executive director of Jerusalem’s Gay and Lesbian Center, Hagai El-Ad, whose organization is planning to host the international event.