A Jewish gay rights leader says that he will be ignoring threats from the religious communities within Israel to approach Temple Mount during the WorldPride march in Jerusalem next month.

Charles Merrill, 72, was reacting to a statement by Arab member of the Israeli Parliament (Knesset), Ibrahim Sarsur, who said: ” If gays will dare approach the Temple Mount during the parade, they will do so over our dead bodies.”

Mr Merrill, a cousin of the Merrill Lynch co-founder said: “I will be approaching the Temple Mount out of love and forgiveness to those who hate us. If the three major religions in the Middle East (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) want us stoned to death as it dictates in their ancient scriptures, then our gentle innocent blood will be on their hands.

“Gays are the meek in society and love all of humanity.”

Mr Merrill will be marching in Jerusalem on August 10th as a celebration of universal love, and love across borders. His partner, Kevin Boyle, will remain in the USA to carry on his work in the event of Mr Merrill’s death during the march.

Recently, ultra-orthodox rabbis have declared a self proclaimed “holy war” against those organising WorldPride. They claim that young members of their community will be exposed to homosexuality which may lead them to temptation.

Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch of the ultra-orthodox Beth Din (religious court) said: “this parade poses a real threat to the citizens of Israel.”

Police are meeting today with Israel’s Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter to consider whether it will be safe for the parade to take place following threats of violence and protests from across the religious communities.

The event scheduled for this August has strangely united religious Jews, Christians and Muslims, who have spoken put against the parade and are arranging a counter “Modesty Parade.”

Most recently, Israel’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar wrote to Pope Benedict XVI asking for his condemnation, he said: “We ask your Excellency to issue an emotional, strong, and unequivocal call against this horrible phenomenon, in the hope that the amalgamation of protests being voiced by religious leaders… will prevent the wilful wrongdoers to damage and corrupt the ways of humanity.”

Last week Israeli politician, Otniel Schneller, of Israel’s strongest coalition, Kadima party was criticised by fellow members after stating that planned visits by gay groups would turn the Knesset (parliament) into “Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Alan Bolchover, chief executive of the New Israel Fund said the Member of the Knesset (MK) should get out more, he told PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s sad that an MK of the governing party is so out of touch with his humanity, but its at least heartening that another has stepped in to slap him down.

“Maybe Mr Schneller should get out of his office a bit more and walk down the corridor, because a Knesset committee on Lesbian and Gay Rights was founded way back in 1993.”

New York Rabbi Yehuda Levin, who is organising the counter religious parade two days prior to WorldPride, said: “This is not the homo-land, this is the Holy Land,”

Representatives from the organisers of Jerusalem World Pride, AGUDAH marched at last weekend’s EuroPride event in London, a spokesman told PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s great to be here.

“We are excited to be hosting World Pride and are applying for EuroPride in 2009 for Tel Aviv.

The UK Coordinator of World Pride, told PinkNews.co.uk in reaction to calls for the abandonment of the event, “World Pride 2006 is a call for freedom, freedom of expression, freedom to be different, and tolerance. It seeks to embrace diversity, and is adamant that it will address and raise awareness of all forms of discrimination and injustice.

“We hope others will see their own specific struggles reflected in the struggle of LGBT people around the world and come and participate in this rallying cry for peace.”

The last World Pride was held in 2000 in Rome, with the disapproval of the Vatican.

Jerusalem WorldPride runs from August 6-12 2006.