Israel’s Supreme Court yesterday rejected a petition to ban this year’s Jerusalem Gay Pride parade, which will go ahead as planned on Thursday.
The annual event has been a focus of violent controversy in the past.
In his ruling, Justice Ayala Procaccia said that “a proper balance must be maintained between the desires of the gay and lesbian community to march, and the feelings of the city’s residents – it is important that such parades become a matter of routine instead of causing a commotion every year.”
A petition, submitted by a group of ultra-orthodox Jewish activists last week, called the parade a “provocation that harms the delicate texture that exists in Jerusalem.”
In 2005 a man stabbed three Pride participants and was subsequently sentenced to 12 years in prison.
The following year the venue was switched to a sports stadium following violent protests by rightwing opponents who consider the event “a profanity” of the Holy City.
Last year about 2,500 gays and activists marched down King David Street despite protests by thousands of people.
Jerusalem Open House, the gay rights group organising the event, said the parade would put Jerusalem and Israel “to the true test of democracy and civil rights.”
“Though we expect the struggle to be tough, we will not let the threats of violence silence us or challenge Israeli democracy,” the group said in a statement.
Israeli gay rights activists received another boost earlier this year with the news that Tel Aviv will be home to the country’s first permanent memorial to gay Holocaust victims.
The monument will be erected in the central district of Gan Meir by the end of 2008.
According to Yad Vashem historian Professor David Bankier, there were an estimated 1.5 million homosexuals in Germany when the Nazis came to power, with approximately 10,000 to 15,000 being sent to concentration camps.
Homosexuals under the Nazi regime and in the camps had to identify themselves with a pink triangle badge. Based on the triangle shape, the memorial’s design is currently going through the Tel Aviv’s various approval and planning processes.
Holocaust memorials to homosexuals are scattered throughout the globe, such as the so-called “Homomonument” in Amsterdam and memorials adjacent to the Jewish Museums in Frankfurt, Berlin and Sydney.
Plaques are also displayed at death camps in Dachau, Mauthausen and Neuengame.
Gay rights activist Yonatan Gher, head of the Jerusalem Open House community centre, cautiously celebrated the memorial announcement.
“In Israel the Jewish aspect [of the Holocaust] is so powerful, that other aspects have been put aside. This is a very good first step,” he told the Jerusalem Post.
In a further development indicative of Israel’s widening acceptance of homosexuality, the first LGBT community centre to be financed and run by local government opened its doors in Tel Aviv on 1 June.
There is a critical need in the community for youth groups, according to Mayor Ron Huldai’s advisor on gay affairs Pinkas.
“About one third of attempts to commit suicide among young people are by gay teens,” he told the Jerusalem Post.
“The gay community in Tel Aviv is very significant in numbers and contributions to the city’s cultural life and economy, and there is no reason why the local government should not give necessary services crucial to these citizens.”