Friday, June 22, 2007

מצאד הגאוה בירושלים - Gay Parade in Jerusalem

Balloon arch

The gay pride parade yesterday in Jerusalem was a success, at least for the people who went to it (obviously not for the Haredim who opposed it). A few thousand people came to march (I've read varying estimates in the newspapers from about 2,000 to 3,500), and there were many thousands of police on alert throughout the city (apparently about 7,000). In addition there were hundreds (it seemed) of photographers and other media people at the parade itself. It was quite colorful - lots of rainbow flags, intermixed with Israeli flags, rainbow balloons, and a huge rainbow banner brought by Meretz Youth. I saw banners for the Open House (the organizer of the parade) and the Israeli Religious Action Center (of the Reform movement), in addition to the Meretz banner. Apparently there were other organizations there, but I was pushed up right at the beginning of the march and couldn't see them.

Meretz flag - rainbow flag of Jerusalem

From about 2:00 p.m. yesterday most of the streets in the center of the city were closed off by the police, so the easiest way to get to the beginning of the parade (on King David St. near the Hebrew Union College campus) was to walk from Katamon. The closer, the more police I saw. By the time I got to King David, there were police barriers blocking the way. A policeman asked me where I was going, I told him I was going to the demonstration - he corrected me by calling it a march - and I was on King David.

"Colors don't divide between man and man, between blood and blood"

That was about 4:30. Already there were a few hundred people, the balloon displays and the flags, and hundreds (if not more) of police and Mishmar Ha-Gvul (Border Police). It was quite funny to watch the very serious faces of all the police, who formed long lines with their backs to the crowd in the street facing the buildings on the street. There were not very many watchers, since the street is mostly hotels - the protection felt quite over the top. (But nonetheless, it was important, since elsewhere in the city there had been violent protests against the march, and apparently there was a Haredi protest on Jaffa St. whose participants attempted to march over to the gay march to protest us directly).

Border policemen

The crowd built up slowly and we finally set off at about 6:00 p.m - for our very short march down King David St. to Gan ha-Pa'amon. One of the funny things about the march is that right in front there was a row of Mishmar Ha-Gvul police, and right behind them either one of the arches of balloons or the banner of the Open House - so it looked like they were actually participating in the parade. What they were most useful for was keeping back all of the photographers. Right in front there was a group of three men wearing pink and holding pink umbrellas - their t-shirts read מג"י - מפלגת הגייז בישראל - Mag"i - Israeli Gay Party. The photographers loved them and kept crowding in front of them and holding the parade back, which annoyed the Mishmar Ha-Gvulniks.

The mood was very cheerful. There was very little of the explicit sexuality that often occurs at other gay parades (for example, in Tel Aviv). I was reading something this morning that described it as "very Jerusalem-like" - modest, restrained, and happy. People were walking hand in hand, occasionally shouting out a slogan in Hebrew (or even English), and singing. The Meretz Youth sang many songs about Jerusalem (not gay rights!) including Naomi Shemer's "Jerusalem of Gold" - which gave the parade the feeling of a youth movement gathering rather than a political march.

There were quite a few straight supporters associated with human rights groups who came - for example, Shatil, set up by the New Israel Fund to support NGOs in Israel working for democracy, tolerance, and social justice in Israel.

On Emek Refaim - "God loves everyone"

When we got to the intersection just before Gan Ha-Pa'amon, it turned out that there was not going to be a "happening" there as originally planned. Instead, there was going to be a party later at a club. The crowd dispersed very slowly - the police kept hemming us in until they were convinced it was safe. Then I walked down to Emek Refaim with a friend. She had to go home to see to her daughter, but I kept strolling around. Emek Refaim, which is a main street usually choked with traffice, was still closed to cars by the police, so people were walking down the middle of street. I ran into another few friends and we sat on a bench talking and watching people from the parade walk by, holding gay pride flags, Israeli flags, and wearing stickers saying "love" in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. I only saw one hostile response during the whole time - just as we were entering Emek Refaim St., a religious woman saw the people coming from the parade, and was spitting at people and cursing them. Unpleasant, but there was only one of her.

All in all, a lot of fun.

No comments:

Post a Comment