A delegation of Vancouverites, including city councillor Tim Stevenson and mayor Larry Campbell, intend to visit Jerusalem, Israel this summer to help celebrate World Pride 2005.
Jerusalem is the second city ever to host the event, after 250,000 revellers from around the globe gathered five years ago for World Pride 2000 in Rome, Italy.
The Vatican nearly put a stop to that historic gathering and since the announcement for this summer’s event in Jerusalem, anti-queer and religious extremist groups around the world are voicing their opposition, too.
“When the event was declared, the city leaders in Jerusalem were supportive,” says Vancouver contingent organizer Steve RodRozen. “Now they’re coming under mounting pressure from ultra-orthodox elements. Regardless, the event is still going forward,” he says.
Jerusalem queers held their first local pride celebration in 2003. Israeli law has had a relatively liberal view of homosexuality since gay sex was decriminalized there in 1988. There are provisions for same-sex benefits for government employees, immigration and queers are not prevented from serving in the Israeli military.
Jerusalem is, however, among the holiest of cities to followers of the Christian, Judaic and Islamic faiths. Most sects of those religions dogmatically condemn homosexuality on moral grounds, even though scripture is corrupted by translation and makes only passing and oblique references to homosexuality.
Jerusalem’s ultra-orthodox mayor, Rabbi Uri Lupoliansky, has no official authority under the law to block the celebration in Jerusalem. He has, however, been quoted in the world press as calling Jerusalem Open House (JOH), Israel’s leading queer activist organization, all kinds of nasty names including “an abomination”.
He’s also been quoted as saying Pride celebrations are terrible things that do harm to youth.
Xtra West tried to reach Lupoliansky for his comment, but he didn’t respond to an email before press time.
The ten-day World Pride 2005 celebration will include opening and closing celebrations, a full schedule of parties, a major international concert, a queer film festival and an academic conference on religion and homosexuality. It will culminate in a street fair, Pride Parade and rally.
“Jerusalem is the ultimate place in the world to make a global statement that love, peace and democracy know no borders,” RodRozen says. “God loves us all equally, regardless of sexual orientation.”
RodRozen says there is a petition supporters of the event can sign on the World Pride 2005 website. He also says anyone who’d like to attend with the Vancouver delegation is welcome to do so. Interested people can contact him for travel and accommodation suggestions at: firstname.lastname@example.org.